Marking four years of cooperation with the EU, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Tuesday said it supported over 12,000 vulnerable migrants, including children, across the Horn of Africa.
In a statement, the IOM said its partnership with the EU has assisted some 6,300 men, women, and children to voluntarily return to their countries of origin in Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan; having been stranded and detained in places like Libya.
“The programme has gone a long way in bringing different parties towards the common goal of saving lives and allowing many of those who had been stranded to start afresh. It is fulfilling a critical need in a region with significant migration movements,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s Regional Director for the East and Horn of Africa.
The start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 exacerbated risks experienced by migrants, the statement said, adding that migrants also experienced increased exploitation by smugglers during the same period.
At least 58 migrants died in the region in 2020, many by choosing these dangerous journeys, according to the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project.
The EU-IOM Joint Initiative is responding to the migrant crisis by increasing its assistance for the rehabilitation of supporting infrastructure in Djibouti – a key transit location – including the operation of mobile health clinics for migrants on the move.
“The smugglers demanded USD 3,000 to take me first to Libya and then onto Europe,” IOM quoted Mohamed, a migrant, as saying.
“But they broke their promise and handed me over to other exploiters who put me in detention in Libya, and then demanded another USD 4,000 from my parents for me to get out of detention.”
The IOM said most migrants are men like Mohamed from Somalia, who embarked on a migration journey to Europe in search of work.
The EU-IOM Joint Initiative in the Horn of Africa is due to come to an end in 2022, according to the statement.