Every day in the East and Horn of Africa, several hundreds of migrants - a majority of Ethiopian nationals - are gambling with their lives trying to reach a land of opportunities and safety. With few options left at home, migrants embark on a perilous journey crossing the path of unscrupulous smugglers and sometimes traffickers.
Many dream of economic opportunities in South Africa, a largely favored destination by African migrants. Unfortunately, their dreams are lost when they get caught and jailed in overcrowded prisons waiting for repatriation for immigration offences.
Yet, migrants are not criminals! They are striving to find a place where they could build a future and provide for their families.
USAIM in partnership with IOM has been providing assistance to detained migrants who accept to voluntarily return home. In 2016, USAIM supported hundreds of voluntary return operations, including of unaccompanied children, from Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique. While returning home might mean failing for economic migrants, we need to ensure that each migrant is given the chance to return home safely and is reunited with his/her family.
In August 2016, the Ray of Light Foundation supported USAIM to provide for the safe return of 53 unacompannied migrant children detained in Malawi back to Ethiopia.They were given pre-departure, transportation and post-arrival assistance, as well as family tracing to reunite them with their families in Ethiopia.
Prior to leaving the transit center for family reunification, one of the boys said:
"IOM has been a father and mother to us. You have freed us from prison and helped us return back to our country. We have no means to repay this great deed, except to say 'Thank you'."
Our partner, IOM, has been working on raising awareness of the dangers of irregular migration in Ethiopia and exploring opportunities for reintegration of the returning migrants, particularly children.
"These migrants have suffered enormously and for a long time. They need to see an end to their plight soon. What is needed is a long-term solution to this irregular migration tragedy from the Horn of Africa,” says Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies