Ethiopian Migrant Survivors Speak Out against Illegal Migration

Addis Ababa Almost two months have elapsed since 64 illegal Ethiopian migrants, out of 78, perished in Tete Province of Mozambique on March 24, 2020 on their way to South Africa.

On 28 April, the surviving 11 migrants returned to Ethiopia and were quarantined for 14 days as per COVID-19 containment measures of Ethiopia at the IOM Migrant Transit Center in Addis Ababa.

The survivors talked to ENA about their harrowing experiences and abuses, including physical  torture by the smugglers.

The 22-year-old Gebisa Neme said he used to transport people by motorbike and got some income before his decided to migrate.

“I used to get enough money to support myself. But one of my friends who traveled to South Africa three years ago convinced me to join him and lead a better life.”

Hoping for a smooth journey, Gebisa began the travel. “The entire journey was, however, terrible. The smugglers kept us in the bush during day time, and we covered long distances on foot under the cover of darkness without food and water. When we asked for rest they beat  us,” he explained.

Having traveled over a month through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique, the illegal migrants did not reach their destination. “Such a terrible thing would not have happened if we opted for legal migration,” Gebisa regretted.

The other survivor, 20-year-old Tilahun Rabu completed 10th grade in 2018, but did not pass the exam. His brother, who left for South Africa some years ago, urged him to migrate to South Africa. Though his parents did not like the idea, he decided to migrate.

“I left my family with the high hope of changing my life and theirs,” he said, adding that “my journey was not, however, as smooth as I expected it to be.”

Tilahun said all the 78 migrants were packed into a container in Mali to cross over to  Mozambique. “After covering some distance we felt sophisticated. It was very hot inside. As a result, 64 of our fellow migrants died while some of us were rescued.”

The 20-year-old returnee, Tigistu Birhanu described his experience as horrendous. “I had job that supported me enough. But I decided to travel to South Africa in search of better work and living conditions after I talked with my cousin.”

When his cousin promised to pay the smugglers, Tigistu chose irregular migration and suffered. “We slept in forests. There were migrants who died of hunger and thirst. We were  robed and tortured by the smugglers.”

Bitter with the experience he had, he “advised those who look forward to migrate illegally, to stay in the homeland even  cleaning shoes. If you are determined and committed you can even be rich.”

IOM Ethiopia Programme Coordinator, Sara Basha said the migrants have passed through difficulties and a tragic journey. “Most of the migrants lost their lives. The survivors have been given support and counseling to return home.”

Furthermore she stressed that IOM will provide assistance and re-integrate them with their families, and that includes psycho-social and economic support.


Source: Ethiopia News agency