METEMA, Ethiopia (AP) — The mood in the border town of Metema these days is quiet and watchful.
Dozens of houses on the hot, dusty main road that stretches from Ethiopia into Sudan look like they have been hastily closed. Guards grimly patrol the border, stopping anyone who looks like an illegal migrant. The nightclubs and bars are emptier than usual, although they still attract Sudanese who are not allowed to drink alcohol in their own country under Shariah law.
Metema, with about 100,000 people, is one of a handful of towns across the region that serve as feeders for a booming trade in migrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan, many hoping to make their way to Europe. Life here is now a cat-and-mouse game: The authorities are cracking down, yet the migrants just keep coming, often risking death.
Since 30 Ethiopian Christians who passed through Metema were killed by the Islamic State group in Libya a few months ago, the Ethiopian government has become far more vigilant. It claims it has detained 200 smugglers across the country, and police say about 28 of them are from Metema.
The effect of the crackdown is clear in this town. But while the flow of migrants is down from about 250 a day, it's still strong at 100 to 150, according to Teshome Agmas, the mayor.
"It's just a pity that people choose to endanger their lives in an effort to move out of their country and work in inhumane conditions abroad," he said.
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