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IOM Aids Ethiopian Minors to Return from Tanzania and Yemen

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, February 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM offices in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Yemen this week helped 125 Ethiopians – many of them unaccompanied minors – to return home from Tanzania and Yemen.

The 54 returnees from Tanzania, who included six unaccompanied minors, were detained by the Tanzanian authorities while trying to reach South Africa and spent over four months in detention before IOM arranged their return home.

The 71 returnees from Yemen, who were all unaccompanied minors, crossed the Red Sea and became stranded while trying to reach the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They spent between 2-3 months in Yemeni detention before IOM arranged their return.

In 2014, IOM helped 828 Ethiopian migrants to return home from Yemen, of whom 334 were unaccompanied minors. In the same year, it helped 598 Ethiopians to return from Tanzania, of whom 80 were unaccompanied minors.

IOM provides pre-departure medical check-ups, accommodation, food and transport in Tanzania and Yemen. IOM Ethiopia provides on-arrival assistance to all returnees, including food and onward transportation.

IOM, UNICEF and Ethiopia's Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs also conduct family tracing in order to reunify unaccompanied minors with their families. The children are fed and housed at the IOM Transit Center in Addis Ababa.

Now safely awaiting the family reunification program, 15-year-old Wehabdela Jemal, from the Southern Nations and Nationalities Reign-Sane-Sankura Zone, remembers the journey has been very hard.

“I left my town five months ago to head to Saudi Arabia after crossing Yemen,” he said. “We faced hunger, and thirst. At first, I thought we were going to make it there like my friends who told me that they are working there.”

After hiding in the bushes and crossing the Afar desert in Ethiopia, Wehabdela said he landed in Djibouti and boarded a boat to Yemen as he headed to Saudi Arabia. Months of hardship later, however, he was arrested upon arrival in Yemen.

“My friends who are already there told me there were lots of hardships they face but I wanted to take my chances anyway,” the teen said. “We were arrested right when we got there three weeks ago. Twelve of us were detained in Yemen after paying 25,000 Birr (USD 1,200). My family had to sell their plot of land to raise the money to pay for the broker.”

Mohammed Nur, 14, is another one of the returnees who migrated from the Silte Zone. He, too, was arrested at about the same time as Wehabdela. He said he and some of his countrymen, all teens, started their journey to Saudi Arabia three months ago. He came back to his country six months later with nothing to show for his efforts. His family members from abroad had to send 25,000 Birr (USD 1,200) for the smuggler's fee in Yemen, as well.

“There was one returnee who showed us the way from Ethiopia but when we landed in Yemen, he disappeared in the middle of the way, I heard later that he has crossed to Ryadh. We were arrested,” the youth explained.

He described the difficult route to Yemen: “The road is treacherous, it is desert all the way; it is very hot. The whole hardship I faced on the way made me think that if I work hard in my own country I might just make better than there.”