By Akanimo Sampson
A United Nations agency has reported that Ethiopian returnees from Africa’s Eastern migratory route are coming back to their country at the rate of about 1,000 migrants per month.
Since January 1, this year, the UN agency, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Ethiopia has assisted 9,200 migrants. This represents close to a twofold increase compared to 2018, when 5,382 returnees were assisted by the organisation.
Most Ethiopian returnees were assisted after they found themselves stranded on traditional migration trails, such as the Eastern migratory route, which stretches from the Horn of Africa to Persian Gulf emirates.
Many migrants who undertake the dangerous journey fall into highly vulnerable situations that require various forms of support. These include financial help, immediate post-arrival assistance with shelter and medical screening, as well as specialised support like family tracing and reunification services for unaccompanied children.
This past week, IOM assisted 140 Ethiopians returning from Djibouti by train. Despite the support these individuals receive to return safely, many arrive home only to find themselves in the same dire economic situation which prompted them to leave. Some migrants even return to conditions worse than when they left, in debt or with their savings exhausted paying for the trip.
“Due to limited funding, our support does not always go beyond providing immediate post-arrival assistance”, says Hugo Genest, IOM Ethiopia’s Programme Coordinator for Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration and Immigration and Border Management.
Accordingly, reintegration support is as necessary as immediate post-arrival assistance. “Since most irregular migrants leave their country for economic reasons, the increase in number shows that these migrants also need alternative livelihood support”, he added.
Mixed migration flows from the Horn of Africa continue to be a challenge, as a significant number leave the region irregularly, with Ethiopian migrants the most numerous. Moreover–and despite Yemen’s war and an escalating humanitarian crisis—2019 has seen a spike in arrivals of East African refugees and migrants there.
IOM estimates the monthly average migrants arriving in Yemen this year has been of 18,500, the highest number since data became available in 2006.
Beyond the immediate assistance provided to Ethiopian returnees, reintegration support is desperately needed, especially for vulnerable migrants, as most of them have exhausted their own as well as their family’s savings and need to rebuild their lives.
IOM’s immediate post-arrival assistance in Ethiopia is made possible through generous funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration of the United States Department of State.