IOM Assists 67 Ethiopian Migrants Stranded in Somalia to Safely Return Home

Staff from IOM and the Migrant Response Centre (MRC) distribute travel documents to migrants before taking them to the airport. Photo: Zakaria Mohamed/IOM

Bosaso, Somalia - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) assisted 67 Ethiopian migrants who were stranded in Bosaso, Somalia, to safely return to Ethiopia. The group included 27 unaccompanied children between 12 to 17 years old.  

Some of the migrants had been stranded in Bosaso for up to six months facing a dire living situation and life-threatening risks posed by smugglers. They expressed their wish to return and voluntarily enrolled in IOM’s voluntary return programme.

“IOM teams meet with hundreds of migrants each month that request support to return to their communities. They have endured severe hardships on the road or while in transit, and in many instances, they have exhausted their resources to continue the journey across the Gulf of Aden or go back home safely,” explains Frantz Celestin, IOM Somalia Chief of Mission.  

IOM chartered two flights to facilitate the movement, the first taking off on 29 March 2023 and the second one on 5th April 2023. 

The return was funded by the European Union and was coordinated through the Migrant Response Centre (MRC) in Bosaso in collaboration with Puntland's Ministry of the Interior, the Ethiopian Consulate, and Puntland’s Ministry of Women and Family Development. 

“Migrants share a desire to finding better job opportunities so they can provide a future for themselves and families. What many of them don’t expect is the level of abuses and violence they will encounter. Smugglers deceived them on their dreams and hopes,” said Celestin. 

Chaltu, a 20-year-old mother was on the second flight with her two small babies. She followed the example of people from her community in Welagu, Ethiopia, who had travelled the same route before and were able to build homes or start small businesses with the money they earned overseas.  

“Smugglers came to our community and told us we could travel for free, but everything changed when we reached Las Anood (Somalia). They started beating us and demanded money if we wanted to continue the journey,” she said 

Chaltu stayed in a smugglers’ house for seven months while her family gathered the money demanded from her. Her husband allegedly went to Saudi Arabia, but she has not heard from him in a while and doesn’t know where he is. 

“I'm overjoyed because I will be reunited with my family and loved ones when I return home,” she said as she boarded the plane.  

Bosaso is a major transit city for migrants travelling along the Eastern Route, a migratory corridor for those wishing to reach Saudia Arabia via Yemen. Migrants along this route are majority Ethiopians and Somalis fleeing conflict, droughts, and situations of poverty in their home country, which hinders their ability to access quality education or well-paid jobs. 

Due to limited funding to assist migrants in Somalia, IOM will have to discontinue its return operations and close the MRCs in Bosaso and Hargeisa by June of this year, which will increase the risks for over 10,000 vulnerable migrants who utilize IOM's services annually. 

For more information, Claudia Rosel, Media and Communications Officer, 

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