IOM Calls for Urgent Funding to Assist Thousands of Migrants Facing Life-Threatening Risks in Somalia

Three young Ethiopian migrant men pictured on the road that connects Berbera to Hargeisa. "It has been 27 days since we left Ethiopia. Unfortunately, we don't have anything to eat or drink, and we don't have money to take the boat to cross the Gulf. We have made the difficult decision to turn back and return to Ethiopia," said one of them. Photo: Yonas Tadesse/IOM Somalia 

Mogadishu - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is urgently calling on the international community to increase their commitments as part of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration to address the pressing humanitarian needs of tens of thousands of migrants whose lives are at risk in Somalia. 

Funding to assist migrants in the country has drastically reduced over the years, while the needs of the migrant population continue to increase due to climatic shocks, conflicts, and economic crisis. These challenging circumstances are forcing thousands of people each year to go on perilous journeys out of the Horn of Africa in search of better opportunities in Gulf countries or Europe.

"We need USD 3 million before the end of June 2023 or at least 50,000 migrants who are passing through Somalia will be left without access to critical life-saving assistance each year. We will also be forced to close the Migration Response Centres (MRCs) in Bosaso and Hargeisa, which have been operational since 2009 and 2008 respectively and assist an average of 10,000 migrants each year," said Frantz Celestin, IOM Somalia Chief of Mission. 

MRCs are critical one-stop safe havens, run by the government and supported by IOM, where stranded and transiting migrants can access free medical care, psychosocial support, water, food, clothes, information, family tracing and a safe return option to their countries of origin. 

Somalia is a main transit country for thousands of migrants, particularly Ethiopians taking the Eastern Route to Gulf countries. Migrants travel through the country on foot or with the assistance of smugglers who often treat them inhumanely, some going as far as killing them.

The disruption in support will increase the risk for migrants of being detained, extorted, and physically and physiologically abused – migrants have continuously reported beatings, hangings, shootings, and plastic burning by smugglers. Women and girls will also face higher levels of violence, including sexual assault. 

"We are deeply concerned, especially as we are seeing more and more unaccompanied migrant children stranded. They don't speak the language, have lost contact with their families, and often find themselves working under exploitative conditions or being forcibly married in the case of girls," said Celestin. 

Current tensions in Las Anod, a city located in one of the primary routes used by migrants to reach Bosaso, has also disrupted migration dynamics and increased fear among migrants who have reported increased violence and lack of services.

If not addressed, the current situation can also undermine efforts to promote stability, security, and human rights in the region.

During the last few years, IOM has provided training on counter trafficking for border officers and social organizations and played an instrumental role in the roll out of the first ever Human Trafficking Act in Somaliland and Puntland to reduce risks and support victims.

With sufficient funding, IOM can work with the Federal Government of Somalia to provide immediate assistance, raise awareness about the risks of the journey and develop effective migration management strategies to promote reintegration, access to safe return, and reception. All these initiatives can address the drivers of irregular migration and provide better opportunities in the communities of origin.

IOM’s response to the Eastern Migration Corridor falls under the umbrella of the Regional Migrant Response Plan (MRP) for the Horn of Africa and Yemen is a response mechanism that brings together humanitarian and development partners to respond and address the needs of migrants in the region. Without urgent funding towards IOM’s central role in the MRP these services face imminent discontinuation.

For more information, Claudia Rosel, Media and Communications Officer in IOM Somalia,