One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants returned home safe and sound from Yemen today with help from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just a day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed their lives to dozens of people, including at least 16 children.
More than 32,000 migrants, mostly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often fatal, circumstances.
“The conditions of the stranded migrants in Yemen have become so tragic that many feel they have no choice but to rely on the smugglers to get home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, director of operations and emergencies at the ‘IOM.
At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their ship sank off Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM estimates that, since May 2020, more than 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat trips, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.
“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) program provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country which is currently in its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to provide migrants with safe and dignified opportunities to return home, ”added Labovitz.
COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to the Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journey, stranded in Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.
While the pandemic has also lowered the number of migrants arriving in Yemen from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to increase. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping on the streets without shelter or access to services. Many more are being held or held by smugglers.
“We can’t find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us, ”said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the ORV flight. “I used to sleep on the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people gave me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.
Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered more than 6,000 migrants who need help to return home safely. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second carrying an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians approved for ORV to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.
Prior to the departure of the ORV flight, IOM performed medical and protective examinations to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and voluntarily consent to return. People with special needs are identified and receive specialist advice and support.
In Ethiopia, IOM is supporting government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate returnees on arrival and providing cash assistance, essential items and transport to their homes. The Organization also supports the tracing of families of unaccompanied migrant children.
In the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving assistance to migrants through health care, food, water and other life-saving aids.
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