The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) – Tanzania, together with the Tanzania Immigration Department last week facilitated the voluntary repatriation of 71 Ethiopian migrants.
The migrants had been detained in Iringa, Ubena and Morogoro prisons for entering Tanzania irregularly.
The migrants, some of whom have been here for as long as two years, expressed their gratitude to finally be able to join their families.
Since early 2014, the IOM has voluntarily repatriated 721 stranded migrants. This has been made possible through generous funding from the government of Japan, through the ‘Voluntary Return Assistance to Migrants in Tanzania’ project, which has now come to an end.
Through this project IOM, in cooperation with the Tanzanian government, has provided return assistance to vulnerable stranded migrants. Focusing mainly on migrants from the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia), and to a lesser extent, migrants from the Great Lakes Region: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, the project has enabled the government to ensure sustainable and humanitarian returns for these people.
In addition to providing direct assistance to vulnerable migrants, the project has focused on building capacity of the Tanzanian government, specifically the Tanzania Immigration Services Department (TISD) to manage irregular flows, through a series of trainings on return management (including mixed migratory flows, human rights and international protection for immigration officers).
Speaking about the project, IOM Tanzania Chief of Mission, Damien Thuriaux said, “not only have we been able to provide life-saving services to stranded and destitute migrants, we have also been able to build the national capacity of the Tanzanian government to effectively respond to irregular migration flows through a human-security centred approach.”
He said he believed that inter-state dialogue is an important means in overcoming the challenge, which does not only affect Tanzania, but also other countries along the Southern corridor.
A positive step has been the ‘Migration Dialogue Conference’, which through funding from the government of Japan, was hosted last November in Zanzibar, with the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa convening to discuss the way forward in responding to the issue of irregular migration.
Thousands of irregular migrants from the Horn of Africa are reported to try the dangerous journey to South Africa each year. Desperately searching for greener pastures for themselves and their families, they are prepared to pay smugglers fees of up to 4,000 USD to facilitate the movement (often using up life savings, or selling off family assets). Benefiting from people’s desperation, the smuggling industry has become a lucrative multi-billion dollar industry.
Tanzania is a transit corridor for migrants making their way further South to South Africa, where they are attracted by a more liberal asylum policy.
Reports of migrants being intercepted by the authorities in Mbeya, Coast Region and Tanga are commonplace, and prisons, where migrants are locked up with common criminals, have often been overcrowded.
Since 2009, more than 3,000 Ethiopian detainees have been assisted by IOM to return home through funding from the government of Japan.
Ethiopia with escorts provided for minors, reception in Addis Ababa, onwards transportation to places of origin and reintegration assistance.