Ethiopian Migrant Returnees to Access Free Legal Services

Adama- A two-day high-level consultation workshop on a draft national legal aid strategy was organized by IOM Ethiopia in Adama city on the 3rd and 4th of December, with the financial support of the European Union (EU).  Legal experts from the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) led the discussion. The draft strategy expands access to justice to vulnerable migrant returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), victims of crime and other vulnerable groups through free legal service. 

Migrant returnees often face myriad of legal challenges linked to their irregular migration, especially because vulnerable migrants lack awareness of their own rights and do not know where to seek legal aid. This national legal aid strategy addresses those challenges by mainstreaming vulnerable migrants’ eligibility to free legal aid services. In addition, it customizes documentation requirements to the situation of migrants, and helps raise their awareness.

The consultation workshop followed a joint assessment conducted in April 2019 by MoJ and IOM, under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative Programme, which found out that state-led legal aid services are not accessible at kebele (zone) level, where most returnees reside. It further recommended the importance of establishing strong referral linkage between legal aid service providers, grassroot level civil societies and university-based legal aid clinics. 

Migrant returnees, after years of living abroad or in detention, often do not have a local ID to present for services upon return. The assessment emphasized that legal aid institutions should take this into consideration, and revise requirements to include alternative supporting documents.

“The legal aid strategy is key to give migrant returnees the legal assistance they require. This strategy is one of the Ministry’s priorities,” said Mr. Addis Getnet, MoJ Director General - Legal Studies, Drafting and Consolidation Directorate General.

In March 2022, the draft national legal aid strategy was reviewed and submitted to the Council of Ministers for endorsement. Upon receipt of feedback, representatives from the relevant institutions met in Adama to finalize the technical review of the strategy that now considers amending the eligibility criteria for free legal aid and the inclusion of returnee cases in pro bono services.
About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative  

Launched in December 2016 with the support of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, along with the European Union and the International Organization for Migration, around the goal of ensuring that migration is safer, more informed, and better governed for both migrants and their communities. 

For more information, please contact Helina Mengistu, email: or Adam Sahilu, email: 

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