IOM has begun an operation to allow 220 Ethiopian irregular migrants held in six Tanzanian prisons to return home.
The project, carried out in close cooperation with the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is funded by the United States and Japan and will be completed by the end of May.
It follows a one-week joint verification mission by IOM, Ethiopian and Tanzanian officials to prisons holding Ethiopian irregular migrants in Tanzania’s Coastal, Iringa, Mbeya, Morogoro, Moshi and Tanga regions.
“I left my country one year and a half ago. I was told by a friend that Kenya offers many well-paid jobs, so I went there and stayed for some months. But I had troubles with papers and permits, so I moved to Uganda and then tried to go back to Kenya for another job,” says Daniel, 30, a voluntary returnee.
“Finally I decided to go down to South Africa through Tanzania, but in Tanzania I was caught and sent to prison. I have been here for more than five months and haven’t spoken to my wife and children since then. Maybe they think I am dead,” he adds.
Hundreds of irregular migrants from the Horn of Africa trying to reach South Africa end up in overcrowded prisons in Tanzania, according to IOM project manager Charles Mkude.
“Tanzania has become a transit corridor to Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia en route to South Africa. As the country lacks specialized facilities to host irregular migrants, those who are caught are detained in prisons. Mixing these migrants with criminals in facilities with limited reception capacity has created a humanitarian crisis. Many migrants, whose families have no information about their location and cannot support them, are at risk,” he notes.
“Saudi Arabia’s 2013 decision to seal its borders and deport over 160,000 irregular Ethiopian migrants has compounded the problem, making it harder for Ethiopians to get jobs in the Gulf and persuading more of them to try to get to South Africa via Tanzania,” he adds.
“These migrants are in a dire situation. They have no papers, they do not speak Swahili and are far away from their family and relatives. Tanzania cannot afford to keep them and cannot afford to send them back home,” says a Tanzanian immigration official.
IOM’s voluntary return operation includes medical screening, flights to Ethiopia, reception in Addis Ababa, onward transport to their places of origin and reintegration assistance.
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Charles Mkude IOM Dar-es-Salaam Email: firstname.lastname@example.org