UN Migration: hundreds of civilians return in Ethiopia

Ethiopian migrants at the airport Ethiopian migrants at the airport © Avand Hasan/IOM 2022

This is a summary of a report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) about the return of Ethiopian people from Yemen.

On 24 May, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) of the United Nations published a report about its current Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) operation in Yemen. The aim of the operation is to support the return from Yemen of almost 6750 Ethiopian civilians to their country. This is not the first return flight organized by the Organization this year; in fact, more than 600 Ethiopian migrants arrived in Addis Ababa on three VHR flights this year, including 60 unaccompanied migrant children. Moreover, IOM states that additional flights from Yemen to Ethiopia are set to depart in the coming weeks, but more assistance is urgently needed to help all the civilians who wish to return home. The will of people to return to their country lies above all in the fact that the situation in Yemen continues to worsen due to the incessant war: this unstable situation inevitably led to the collapse of the country’s economy and to a worsening of living conditions.

Therefore, as the report outlines, thousands of trapped migrants in Yemen have expressed a desire to return to Ethiopia voluntarily. For this reason, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is seeking USD 7.5 million to be able to assure them a safe return, healthcare assistance and protection aid during the journey. In Yemen, IOM is responsible for organizing both the pre-departure and the arrival of these people; thus, the organization of flights, pre-departure counseling and, the acquisition of travel documents, are provided, and also the coordination with local authorities to guarantee safe passage and transit is ensured. Once returned to Ethiopia, people are given food, temporary housing, medical help, counseling, and other daily essentials.

As Christa Rottensteiner, IOM Yemen’s Chief of Mission, said “Migrants transiting through or stranded in Yemen are some of those most affected by the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country,”. She continues by stating that "They endure life-threatening situations and arrive daily at IOM’s response centres after experiencing inhumane treatment such as arbitrary detention, forced transfers, exploitation and torture. VHR is the only option for safe return from Yemen and is a lifeline for thousands of stranded migrants.” This statement relates mainly to Ma'rib, which has been a major flashpoint in Yemen's seven-year conflict. Ma'rib's metropolitan center is about 25 kilometers from the nearest frontline, and with approximately one million Yemenis displaced since the conflict began, the region has the highest levels of displacement in the country. Currently, approximately 4 500 migrants are stranded in Ma'rib, unable to cross perilous frontlines.

Moreover, together with this operation, IOM is also collaborating with partners in order to assist the Ethiopian Government with the support of thousands of civilians who have been deported from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) after an agreement has been signed between Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, the number of civilians returning home is expected to increase in the next months of this year - 75,000 Ethiopian migrants will be returned under the current operation.

It is clear that greater financial support is needed in order to ensure the positive outcomes of these operations; for this reason, both the International Organization for Migration and Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa and Yemen (MRP) partners are urging for approximately USD 11 million to be able to provide post-arrival assistance to the returnees.


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by Alexia Tenneriello

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