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Immigration and Border Management Controls Enhanced in Ethiopia by German Government Funding

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IOM Ethiopia staff accompanying a senior official of Ethiopia's INVEA to assess a location where a new immigration BCP will potentially open at Gizen, Ethio-Sudan border, May 2020 © IOM/Hugo Genest

Addis Ababa – Immigration and border management controls in Ethiopia are being improved to help secure the country’s borders and make migration safer for hundreds of thousands of migrants who pass through the country each year. The improvements come against the backdrop of COVID-19 which has put the spotlight on the need to improve border management. Tens of thousands of Ethiopian migrants have returned to the country from Djibouti, Somalia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other nations since the outbreak of COVID-19 through the country’s porous borders, many travelling on foot. The interventions are being funded by the German government to the tune of EUR 1.98 million. As part of the agreement, IOM Ethiopia has developed a border management programme with the Government of Ethiopia’s Immigration, Nationality and Vital Events Agency. The programme will build the capacity of existing border crossings, support the establishment of new border crossings, and prioritize the protection of migrants.

Ordinarily, migrants have crossed through unofficial border crossing points (BCPs), in most cases without valid travel documents. Such movements make it difficult for service providers and protection actors to assist migrants in situations of vulnerability. Furthermore, migration through unofficial crossing points limits the Government of Ethiopia’s capacity to collect reliable data and develop evidence-based migration management policies.

Through this programme, IOM will work closely with the Government of Ethiopia on improving migration management and governance, including countering human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. The project will also pave the way towards eventually equipping the newly established border control posts with IOM's Migration Information and Data Analysis System (MIDAS), a system to capture data appropriately as well as support the verification of fraudulent documents.

Ethiopia has a 5,300km long border, one of the longest in the continent, which it shares with Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan, and other states. However, few land BCPs in the country are equipped for the necessary screenings or to facilitate travel. Where they do exist, electricity and communication systems are largely absent or undependable. Border management and communication technologies are needed to realize the development potential of efficient movement of people, goods, and services across borders.

Migrants using unofficial BCPs are at risk of falling into the hands of traffickers and smugglers because they have limited access to legal means of travel and, as a result, may lack access to protection services. The funding will enable IOM to protect migrants by helping organize their movement and providing them with basic essentials such as food and water, medical referrals, and transportation, and improve migration data collection which will help deliver assistance to migrants and inform migration policies more effectively.

On 20 October, to mark the start of the new partnership, Germany’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Stephen Auer, and a delegation from the country’s Embassy visited IOM’s migrant transit centre in the capital, Addis Ababa, where 29,000 international migrants have been helped by IOM over the last three years, many of whom were supported to return home with dignity and provided with opportunities to reintegrate into their home communities. During the visit, the German delegation spoke with returnees to try and understand the complexities of migrant experiences as they journey across borders in search of better opportunities. Also discussed was how to improve Ethiopia’s land border management to ensure the safe and dignified movement of citizens, and support the sustainable return and reintegration of migrants, which form the basis for IOM and the German government cooperation in Ethiopia.

“The intricacies of migration management are numerous and require multi-stakeholder efforts to address the protection needs of migrants. Strengthening border management will go a long way in maintaining secure borders and protecting migrants from the perils they witness and have candidly shared with us today,” Ambassador Stephen Auer said.

IOM Ethiopia supports the sustainable reintegration of returning migrants by providing them with the assistance needed to start small businesses, continue their education, or find jobs in their area of expertise. Vulnerable returnees are also provided with medical support to ensure their wellbeing in the reintegration process.

Maureen Achieng, IOM Ethiopia’s Chief of Mission and Representative to the African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, for her part emphasized, “Given the strong commitment of the Government of Ethiopia to continental integration through the freer movement of persons and goods across borders, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthening border governance with the aim of facilitating well-regulated movements while enhancing sustainable reintegration of returning migrants has never been more urgent.”

For more information, please contact Haimanot Abebe at IOM Ethiopia, Email: haabebe@iom.int, Tel: +251 47 551 0899, ext. 1260

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