IOM has helped 42 Ethiopian migrants stranded in Hargeisa, Somaliland, to voluntarily return home. Many of the group, who sought shelter at IOM’s Migration Response Centre in Hargeisa, were sick or had suffered abuse at the hands of smugglers and traffickers.
The operation, which began yesterday, was closely coordinated with the Government of Ethiopia, which dispatched two immigration officials to Hargeisa to screen the migrants and issue travel documents. It was also coordinated with key actors in the Somaliland government, including the Ministry of Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Reintegration, and the Ministry of Interior.
The return by IOM buses to Jijiga, which is approximately 200 Km from Hargeisa took two hours and the busses were escorted by two Special Protection Unit (SPU) land cruisers. The migrants underwent fitness to travel tests to make sure they were physically able to travel by road. In Jijiga, Ethiopian side of the border, the migrants were given a cash grant of $100 to pay for accommodation and onward transport to their final destinations. The operation, part of IOM’s Regional Mixed Migration Programme , was funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for Population, Migration and Refugees (PRM.)
Every year thousands of Ethiopian migrants try to cross the Gulf of Aden to reach Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states, mostly in search of work. According to the multi-agency regional mixed migration programme, in 2012 over 107,000 irregular migrants made the journey. Over 80% came from Ethiopia.
“It’s been very hard for us here,” said one Ethiopian woman, before leaving Hargeisa yesterday with IOM to return home. “Our goal was to cross the gulf and reach Yemen and Saudi Arabia where we would have found better opportunities. But some of us got sick and now we just want to go back home.”
IOM is planning to help ten more Ethiopian migrants to voluntarily return home from Bossaso in Puntland later this month. But it has very limited funds to help stranded migrants in the Horn of Africa and Yemen and is appealing to donors for additional funding.