from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
LILONGWE, (CAJ News) – MORE than 500 Ethiopians stranded in Malawi, mostly on failed trips to South Africa, are returning to their country of origin.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Ethiopian authorities have conducted a verification exercise, paving way for their return.
Many of the 562 migrants have been in detention and were reportedly short of food while some had contracted communicable diseases due to poor conditions and overcrowding behind bars.
Ethiopian authorities have issued travel documents to the 562 migrants who have expressed a wish to return home.
The European Union (EU) -IOM Joint Initiative and other IOM projects will commence the assisted voluntary return process starting with the most vulnerable among the verified migrants, including children and those with medical issues.
Officials assured the returnees would receive support to re-establish their lives in Ethiopia through tailored needs-based reintegration assistance.
“We are determined to work with partners in assisting all the stranded migrants, including those wishing to return to Ethiopia to do so safely and in dignity,” Desta Woldeyohaness Delkasso, Head of the Diaspora, Business and Consular section of the Embassy of Ethiopia in Kenya, said.
According to IOM, Malawi is a country of transit on the overland route to South Africa. This is also known as the Southern Route.
The route is mainly used by irregular migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia looking to find economic opportunities as far down as Cape Town in South Africa.
They have to travel through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe or Mozambique before entering South Africa.
A study released by IOM in May established the Southern Route to be burdened with significant protection risks.
This is due to the long distance travelled, multiple border crossings, reliance on illegal brokers and switching of intermediaries along the way.
Consequently, migrants have been exposed to violence, exploitation and abuse, both in transit countries and at destination.
The EU-IOM study disclosed migrants are often subject to deception, ill treatment and sometimes death.
South Africa, a destination of choice for most African migrants, has in recent years become hostile to foreign nationals as the economy goes through a slump.
– CAJ News