UN agency helps stranded Ethiopians return home, ending ‘harrowing migration ordeal’

IOM Bole Addis Ababa International Airport After being stranded in Yemen, a group of Ethiopian migrants return to Addis Ababa with the support of the International Organization for Migration. (July 2019)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


With the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), some 280 Ethiopians returned home on 10-11 July, after being facing traumatic experiences in Yemen.

These new returnees are among a large group of Ethiopian migrants from Yemen who have been taken home as part of the IOM Voluntary Humanitarian Return operation that began in May 2019.

“A prominent challenge we are facing is the limited funding for programmes to sustainably reintegrate returnees and tackle the root causes of irregular migration in hotspot areas,” explained Malambo Moonga, IOM Ethiopia Head of Migration Management.

He also stressed that “the limited employment and livelihood opportunities at home make irregular migration to the Middle East through war-torn Yemen a viable option for vulnerable youth in Ethiopia.”

‘I never thought I would face this much difficulty’

Ahmed* (*Names of the returnees were changed to protect their privacy) is one of the fortunate ones who has returned in good health.

Describing his ordeal, the teenager said that he witnessed torture and extortion, which remained strongly imprinted on his mind. “I never thought I would face this much difficulty,” he said.

When the smugglers told him about job opportunities, he thought it sounded like a dream, and left home without his parent’s permission.

However, the hardships he suffered eventually made him change his mind about continuing with the journey.

In the end, his family took a loan from relatives abroad to pay 30,000 birr (US $1,000) required for his release.

IOM’s operation in Ethiopia

Meanwhile, IOM Ethiopia’s Migration Management Unit is launching several initiatives to raise awareness on the dangers of irregular migration. It also provides available livelihood options at home through the Community Conversation programme.

Yet, many young Ethiopians continue to be lured by smugglers telling them how easy to transform their lives by migrating to the Middle East.

According to IOM, many such Ethiopian migrants have made the treacherous journey and been detained in war-torn Yemen without basic services. They also faced many challenges in accessing protection and assistance.

IOM has so far safely returned 2,742 Ethiopians in the past 50 days, with funding from the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) through the Regional Migration Response Plan (RMRP).

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