Ethiopian migrants stranded in Mozambique return home

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A group of Ethiopians who became stranded in Mozambique en route to South Africa returned home yesterday with the assistance of IOM.

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The 34 migrants began their five-month journey in the southern region of Awasa, Ethiopia, and travelled through Kenya and Tanzania on foot, by boat, minibus or hidden inside goods vehicles.

They crossed into Mozambique through an unpatrolled border crossing in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. However, their journey came to an end on 1 October when the open transporter in which they were travelling collided with another vehicle, resulting in the death of seven migrants.

“When the hospital administration called us to help, the migrants were in a very bad condition, many had not eaten properly in weeks, they were scared, wounded and desperate,” Sister Marta, a nun with the Brazilian order Disciples of Jesus Eucharist, said.

Shortly after the accident, IOM Mozambique was requested by the National Migration Service of Mozambique (SENAMI) to assist the group, some of whom were hospitalized at Pemba Central Hospital. Others were at the City detention centre or staying at an abandoned building on the premises of the hospital due to the lack of migrant accommodation facilities.

During this time, the Disciples of Jesus Eucharist provided humanitarian, medical and food aid to the migrants. Food, clothing and personal hygiene items were also provided by the IOM Mozambique, the IOM Global Assistance Fund and the Regional Ishmaelite Community.

The migrants, all males aged between 21 and 39 years, including three children aged between 15 and 17 years, were headed for South Africa, where most of them have relatives who had promised to help them find work or continue their studies. Each paid around USD 3,500 to smugglers, which is six times the average yearly income in Ethiopia.

“These people left their homes in search of better job opportunities,” said IOM Ethiopia Migration Management Coordinator Fumiko Nagano. “Most of them told us that they used to work as delivery boys, shoe shiners, waiters and drivers back home or tended their small farms, but were not earning enough to make ends meet.”

In Mozambique IOM provided the migrants with food and facilitated the issuance of travel documents through the Ethiopian Embassy for their voluntary return home. “As soon as IOM was alerted by SENAMI, we were able to step in and help,” said IOM Mozambique Chief of Mission Katharina Schnöring.

“Without IOM’s US State Department-funded Assisted Voluntary Return Programme, they would not have been able to return home voluntarily and with dignity,” she added.

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