IOM Helps Ethiopian Child Migrants Return Home from Zambia

Ethiopia - IOM has helped 14 unaccompanied child migrants stranded in Zambia to voluntarily return home to Ethiopia.

The children were intercepted by Zambian police while attempting to cross into South Africa and were detained for several months. After their release, they remained stranded in Zambia, unable to return home due to lack of money.

Aged between 12 and 17, the children were lured to leave Ethiopia by smugglers promising attractive work opportunities in South Africa. These promises turned out to be little more than a scam to extort money from their families.

After months in prison, the children told IOM how fortunate they felt to be coming home alive. “The prison cells were squalid and over-crowded and we didn’t get enough food,” said 15 year-old Hassen*, one of the returnees.

But he and others in the group admitted that they were among the lucky ones to return home. Many other migrants remain stranded in Zambia and Malawi.

IOM is working with governments of origin and destination countries in the region to safely return and reintegrate vulnerable intercepted/stranded migrants.

The 14 child returnees are currently staying at the IOM Transit Centre in Addis Ababa, awaiting family tracing and reunification, carried out by IOM in collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Women and Children.

In addition to assisting returnees, IOM is also supporting efforts by the Government of Ethiopia to address the challenges posed by irregular migration and human trafficking, as well as their root causes through various behavioral change communication and capacity building activities.

Despite these efforts, many young Ethiopians continue to be lured abroad by the dubious promises of unscrupulous people smugglers. In 2016 alone, IOM has helped a total of 1,657 Ethiopian migrants stranded in 10 countries to safely and voluntarily return home. This figure only represents a small proportion of the large number of Ethiopian migrants stranded in dire conditions along major irregular migratory routes.

*Note: Name changed to maintain anonymity.

For further information, please contact Alemayehu Seifeselassie at IOM Ethiopia, Tel: +251.11.6611117 (Ext. 455), Mobile: +251.91.163-9082, Email: