Programme Seeks to Smoothen Migrants’ Reintegration by Tackling Stigma

Addis Ababa – Stigma and shame are constant companions for many migrants who, for various reasons, are compelled to return to their countries of origin.  Unmet expectations lie at the root of families’ resentment towards returnees; migrants who return too soon — and empty-handed — are not always welcomed with open arms, which can lead to psychosocial issues.


Last week, Government of Ethiopia officials were present at a planning meeting hosted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) just outside Addis Ababa. The meeting was organized to determine how to use Ethiopia’s flagship Community Conversations (CC) programme to also deal with stigma and shame among returning migrants. Many of those taking up IOM’s offer of voluntary return assistance include victims of trafficking, the elderly, unaccompanied migrant children and migrants with health needs.


The CC programme was established 10 years ago as a partnership between IOM and the Government of Ethiopia to attend to the challenges arising from irregular migration. It presently reaches over 2,000 of the 15,000 kebeles (or local districts) Ethiopia.


Ethiopia has a population of over 100 million, and accounts for the largest movements of migrants in the Horn of Africa. Across the country’s vast countryside many residents do not even have access to radio or TV. Here the CC programme is going a long way in raising awareness in mitigating the risks of irregular migration.


Last week’s meeting was jointly organized by the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the East and Horn of Africa’ (the Joint Initiative) and ‘Facilitating Informed Migration Choices’, a programme funded by the government of The Netherlands.


The Joint Initiative helps returning migrants restart their lives in their countries of origin through an integrated approach to reintegration that supports both migrants and their communities, has the potential to complement local development, and mitigates some of the drivers of irregular migration.

It is backed by the EU Trust Fund, covers and has been set up in close cooperation with a total of 26 African countries. Since the start of the Joint Initiative in the Horn of Africa in 2017, more than 3400 migrants have been assisted to voluntarily return to Ethiopia. However, returnees cannot sustainably reintegrate without achieving stability within their communities. Among the Joint Initiative’s major objectives is ensuring that returnees benefit from sustainable economic, social and psychosocial reintegration that also benefits communities.

Upcoming CC meetings will seek to identify problems migrant returnees face and the role that their families and the community can play in supporting them to reintegrate.


“Over 25 per cent of migrants assisted by the Joint Initiative are minors,” said Sara Basha, coordinator of the Joint Initiative in Ethiopia. She emphasized that ultimately reintegration is a shared responsibility at all levels of society.


Under the Joint Initiative, support for returnees includes assistance with medical bills, schooling for children, temporary housing as well as vocational training enrolment or the set-up of a small business for those who quality.


For more information please contact Helina Mengistu at IOM Addis Ababa, Email: