Over 500 Ethiopian migrants are stranded in Malawi and would like to return to their communities of origin, according to a verification exercise conducted by the Ethiopian authorities with support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Malawi is a country of transit located on the overland route to South Africa, also known as the ‘Southern Route’. The route is mainly used by irregular migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia looking to find economic opportunities as far down as Cape Town. Hence, they have to travel through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe or Mozambique before entering South Africa.

study released by IOM in May found the ‘Southern Route’ to be  fraught with significant protection risks due to the long distance travelled, the multiple border crossings, the reliance on brokers and the switching of intermediaries along the way.

Thus, migrants were exposed to violence, exploitation and abuse, both in transit countries and at destination. Migrants are often subject to deception, ill treatment and even death, observed the study which was part funded by the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa (the EU-IOM Joint Initiative).

The programme also supported the recent verification of stranded Ethiopian migrants who are spread across various locations in Malawi. Many were in detention and were short of food while some had contracted communicable diseases due to poor conditions and overcrowding.

The Ethiopian authorities have since issued travel documents to 562 migrants who expressed a wish to return home. The EU-IOM Joint Initiative and other IOM projects will commence the assisted voluntary return process starting with the most vulnerable among the verified migrants, including children and those with medical issues. They will also be supported to re-establish their lives in Ethiopia through tailored needs-based reintegration assistance. 

Head of the Diaspora, Business and Consular section of the Embassy of Ethiopia in Kenya, Ambassador Desta Woldeyohaness Delkasso, said: “We are determined to work with partners in assisting all the stranded migrants, including those wishing to return to Ethiopia to do so safely and in dignity.”

About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative

Launched in December 2016 and funded by the European Union (EU) Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, the EU, and IOM around the goal of ensuring migration is safer, more informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities.

For more information please contact:  Mitsue Pembroke, Email: mpembroke@iom.int, or Wilson Johwa, Email: wjohwa@iom.int