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Stranded Ethiopian Migrants Return Home from Tanzania

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, December 2, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM has repatriated 253 Ethiopian irregular migrants released from detention in Tanzania. The operation, in close collaboration with the Tanzanian Immigration Department and the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was funded by the Government of Japan.

The migrants, who were intercepted by the Tanzanian authorities at the country's borders en route to South Africa, had spent up to a year incarcerated in three prisons –

Ruanda, Ubena and Kigongoni – located in Mbeya and Pwani regions.

Tanzania is a major transit country for migrants from the Horn of Africa seeking jobs in South Africa. The dangerous journey can take months or years and some die on the way. Others are intercepted and jailed. Many of the migrants travel on foot and many are exploited by smugglers and traffickers.

Returnee Anebu Girma, aged 16, said that he saw friends die on the Tanzanian border. “My brother is living in South Africa and I was travelling there with my friend to work and send money home to my family. We travelled on foot for six days, then three days by boat. The person, who was taking us, left us for three days at a place called Bagamoyo. We were all starving. Four people died there. Then we decided that we should not die like them. So we surrendered to the border police.”

The returnees, all male, include 39 unaccompanied minors between the ages of 14 and 17. All asked to be repatriated to Ethiopia under the IOM programme.

Following their release from prisons last week, IOM Tanzania provided temporary accommodation for the group, pending issuance of travel documents, pre-departure medical screening and departure by IOM charter flight to Addis Ababa.

On arrival, IOM provided accommodation and meals at the IOM Transit Centre in Addis Ababa for the unaccompanied minors. In collaboration with the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs and UNICEF, it will conduct family tracing to reunite them with their families as soon as possible.

IOM Ethiopia paid for transport to their home areas for all the adult migrants. Most of the returnees came from Ethiopia's high migration Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region.