Stranded Ethiopian Child Migrants Return Home from Malawi
Malawi - IOM this week facilitated the return of 50 Ethiopian irregular migrants stranded in Malawi. Fifteen of the returnees were children.
The migrants are part of a group of 387 Ethiopian migrants held in Malawian prisons for immigration offenses. They were issued travel documents in September 2015 through the collaborative efforts of the Ethiopian and Malawian authorities, with support from IOM.
Of these, 69 vulnerable individuals, including 36 unaccompanied children, were returned to Ethiopia last month, in an operation funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugee and Migration (PRM).
IOM Malawi Head of Office Stephane Trocher explained the seriousness of the situation. “While we continue to work towards the return of the remaining migrants who are still in detention, we came to learn of an additional 55 Ethiopian migrants who were arrested last week. Ten of these are children,” he said.
“This brings the total number of Ethiopian migrants detained in Malawi since the middle of this year to 442 - 61 of them children. That means, one in seven of these migrants is a child. With detention conditions that can only be described as dire, we need to act urgently to prevent further harm and come up with long term solutions for managing irregular migration here,” he added.
Due to limited reception and return capacity, migrants who are stranded in Malawi often end up in overcrowded prisons, where they are locked up, often beyond their sentences, with common criminals.
The medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) earlier reported extreme overcrowding, severe cases of malaria, and pneumonia among Ethiopian migrants detained in Malawi. Almost all showed signs of malnourishment, about half were suffering from skin conditions due to vitamin deficiency, and a dozen were diagnosed with tuberculosis. One migrant had reportedly died from an unspecified illness.
Trocher notes that PRM’s funding to facilitate the return of the most vulnerable migrants; MSF’s medical services; and food and clothing provided by the Ethiopian Community in Malawi are improving the situation.
“The Global Alliance, a US-based Ethiopian diaspora group, has also enabled us to return of a number of the migrants. But we are appealing to our partners to extend their support until the last of these migrants can go home and rejoin their families,” he said.
IOM and the Malawi government are engaging with relevant stakeholders in exploring measures to decongest Malawi’s detention facilities through alternatives to detention, dialogue with countries of origin, revisiting sentencing strategies and, in the long run, the development of a comprehensive migration policy to manage migration in a humane and orderly fashion.
An estimated 20,000 migrants from the Horn of Africa risk their lives every year trying to reach South Africa - the economic powerhouse of the region. Most employ the services of unscrupulous smugglers and experience terrible suffering en route. This includes starvation, beatings, robbery, extortion, extended detention and at times suffocation in cargo trucks or drowning. Malawi lies at the heart of the smuggling route from the Horn of Africa to Southern Africa.
“We left the bodies of those who died in the bush. I am so lucky to be still alive and can’t express how happy I am to go back home,” said one of the boys who returned home to Ethiopia this week.
For further information please contact Stephane Trocher at IOM Malawi, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. +265999975800.