IOM Provides Support to Thousands of Ethiopian Migrants

Addis Ababa. Nearly 15,000 migrants returned home through one of IOM’s transit centres in Addis Ababa last year under the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme. Among them are Eddel and Ayana, two Ethiopian mothers who recently returned from Sudan, where they had stayed irregularly for six and fifteen years, respectively.

Last month (24/1) the two women shared their emotional stories with a visiting Finnish delegation, including Elina Kalkku, State Minister for Development Policy.

“Working as maids and as street hawkers was a daily struggle.  Our children were unwell and were abused. That is why we decided to finally return to Ethiopia”, they both lamented.

Eddel decided to leave for Sudan after struggling to take care of her children from three failed marriages. Relatives told her that life would improve as conditions were better in Sudan. She managed to acquire a passport and borrow 1,000 Ethiopian Birr (roughly USD 32) from her uncle to pay for the three-day bus journey to Khartoum. 

“I lived in Sudan for two years where I worked as a maid. Sometimes, I would sell coffee and tea on the street. All that work was to be able to send money to my mother who was taking care of my children back in Ethiopia,” Eddel shared.

She returned to Ethiopia to take her children and re-migrated back to Khartoum in 2015. However, living conditions continued to deteriorate as she struggled to take care of her three daughters (now aged 22, 19 and 4). Her situation was further exacerbated by poor health when she developed goitre; an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid, which requires surgery and ongoing treatment.

Ayana, who was brought up by her uncle in Addis Ababa, left for Khartoum to join a cousin who lives there.

“I worked as a maid for Sudanese families, but I had to stop working to take care of my sick child. She was born with a physical disability,” Ayana tearfully shared. With the support of a wheelchair provided by IOM, Ayana’s daughter can now move herself around independently.

Ethiopia is a key migratory hub in East and Horn of Africa. It serves as a point of origin, transit and destination for mixed migration within and beyond the immediate region: to the Middle East through Djibouti and Yemen by way of the Eastern migratory route; to Europe through Libya and Sudan via the Northern migratory route; and to South Africa through Kenya and the eastern and southern African countries along the Southern route.

“On the Eastern route, most irregular migrants find themselves at great risk of violence, abuse and exploitation from smugglers, traffickers, and factions in war-torn Yemen,” said Pekka Marjamäki, IOM Ethiopia Project Officer

They are also exposed to starvation, dehydration and the elements.”

Many of those lucky enough to make it back home with IOM’s assistance, like Eddel and Ayana, receive economic and reintegration support meant to ease the process of return.

 “I’m grateful for what IOM has been doing to assist me, and for the medical attention my unwell daughter is getting,” said Ayana.

“I really look forward to starting afresh, with a priority on making sure my children receive a decent education, something I never had the privilege of getting myself.”

State Minister Kalkku said, “I greatly appreciate the work IOM is doing, and will be grateful to get updates on how the two women are progressing in their reintegration journey.”

Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) is an essential component of effective and humane migration management, with tens of thousands of Ethiopian migrants returning home provided with vital assistance through the AVRR-TC, such as food, shelter, psychosocial help and medical aid.

This project is funded by the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa (EU-IOM Joint Initiative), the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, and the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugee and Migration, and the Government of Denmark.

For more information, please contact: Eric Mazango, IOM Ethiopia, Tel.:  +251 115 571 550 (ext. 1456). Email: emazango@iom.int