The number of Ethiopian returnees from Saudi Arabia surpasses estimates

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
The number of Ethiopian returnees from  Saudi Arabia surpasses estimates
The number of Ethiopian returnees from Saudi Arabia surpasses estimates

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is urgently appealing to the international community for financial support to continue providing immediate post arrival humanitarian assistance to thousands of Ethiopian migrants arriving from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

As the arrival has surpassed the projected 120,000 migrants within a month, the Government of Ethiopia and IOM are now looking at an additional 35,000 migrants expected to arrive from the cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and new arrivals from Medina.

IOM was facing a funding gap of USD 11.2 million to assist 120,000 migrants. However, as the number of returnees increases, the financial gap has further widened. According to the government's estimates, there are currently 155,000 projected migrants expected to return. Despite financial contributions IOM has received from CERF-OCHA, HRF-OCHA, ECHO-ERM and Ethiopia's Indian Business Forum, there is still need for more support.

In addition to the financial assistance, IOM has received in-kind contributions from International Rescue Committee, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Food Programme, United Nations Children's Fund, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF Spain), Ethiopian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross, among others. The donations range from water and sanitation kits, dignity kits, ambulances, medicine, water tanks, blankets, tents, high energy biscuits, soaps and mobile toilets among others.

The migrants express their gratitude for the assistance IOM has provided. Twenty-two-year-old Fetiah,* one of the migrants, said, “I had just arrived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when this calamity happened and I was forced to flee. I am in debt to my neck – the people that smuggled me into Saudi Arabia are demanding that I pay all the money I owe them. The hot meals, the medical attention, and the transportation allowance that we receive at Bole Airport make a world of difference for someone like me who has nothing but some old clothes in a suitcase.”

This Emergency operation is greatly challenged by the recurrent uncertainties of the number of returning migrants. Apart from transportation from the airport to the transit centers, the migrants need medical attention, psychological support, feeding and WASH, onward transport and reintegration back into their communities. With limited funding and the increased uncertainties on the total number of migrants remaining, adequate planning is continuously challenging.

*name has been changed to protect identity