GENEVA, Switzerland, October 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — This week, over 450 Ethiopian migrants held in Tanzanian prisons for immigration offenses will take a step closer to returning home to their families with the help of IOM and the Government of Japan.
The operation, in close cooperation with the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is part of IOM’s Japanese-funded ‘Voluntary Return Assistance to Migrants in Tanzania’ project.
Over the next two weeks, representatives of IOM Dar es Salaam and IOM Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian Consulate-General in Tanzania and Tanzania’s Prisons and Immigration Departments will visit six prisons in Tanzania’s Pwani, Tanga, Morogoro, Iringa, Mbeya and Kilimanjaro regions. At the prisons, the team will verify the nationality of detained Ethiopian migrants.
Following verification, the migrants will be issued with travel documents that will allow them to return home by air with IOM at the end of this month. Japanese embassy officials will join the verification visit to Pwani to assess conditions in the prison.
Since 2009, over 2,500 Ethiopian detainees have been helped to return home from Tanzania under the IOM project. This year 220 departed in April, 450 will depart later this month and a further 130 are expected to leave by year end.
IOM Tanzania Chief of Mission Damien Thuriaux hopes that the migrants, most of whom were trying to reach South Africa, will talk to family and friends about their experiences and warn them of the risks associated with irregular migration.
“The risks are enormous – injuries, disease, exploitation and detention are just some of the hazards that these migrants face when they leave home without proper travel documents,” said Mr. Thuriaux. “We are happy that, at least for this group, the suffering is over and they can return to their families.”
Every year thousands of Ethiopian irregular migrants risk their lives trying to enter South Africa through the southern corridor. Most are transported by well-paid smugglers, who benefit from the fact that there are few legal migration options. Tanzania has become a transit country to Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia, en route to South Africa.
Due to limited reception capacity, migrants who are caught in Tanzania often end up in overcrowded prisons, where they are locked up with common criminals, often for as long as two years.
Although most are young men looking for job opportunities in South Africa, a growing number are women, children and unaccompanied minors.
Last month IOM Tanzania assisted an Ethiopian mother and her three children to return home after they had been refused entry into Mozambique and repatriated back to Tanzania.