IOM, Partners Relocate Hundreds of South Sudanese Refugees in Ethiopia

South Sudanese refugees being relocated from Gambella to Assosa, Ethiopia. Photo: IOM Ethiopia

South Sudanese refugees being relocated from Gambella to Assosa, Ethiopia. Photo: IOM Ethiopia

Gambella – The International Organization for Migration, IOM, this week assisted 700 South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia with onward transportation to the Gore-Shembola and Tsore refugee camps in Assosa situated in Benishangul Gumuz Regional State, some 800 kilometers from Pamdong reception centre in Gambella where they had been accommodated since July 2019.

With severe food insecurity and renewed armed conflict worsening the already dire humanitarian situation in South Sudan, a significant number of refugees continue to arrive in Gambella, which sits at the border between South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Whilst Gambella continues to host most South Sudanese refugees, the Gambella regional government has officially communicated that they will no longer accommodate more refugees, implying all relocations will be to the Gure-Shambolla Refugee Camp, established in April 2017.

In 2019, IOM relocated a total of 5,603 South Sudanese refugees. However, road transportation was hampered by insecurity in the volatile region.

There has been an upsurge of arrivals with over 4,000 refugees, including unaccompanied or separated minors, arriving at Gambella’s Pagag border for assistance since November 2019.

To help ease the pressure, IOM, in collaboration with the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), will continue relocating willing refugees by air to the safety of in-land camps in Assosa.

“Last year (2019), we airlifted 719 South Sudanese from Gambella to Assosa’s Gure-Shembola and Tsore camps, collaborating with UNHCR and ARRA, and this week we are planning to airlift 300 more using Ethiopian Airlines charter flights,” said Betelhem Berhane, IOM Officer in charge of the operation.

“Since 2018 we have been working together with ARRA and UNHCR, providing transportation assistance to decongest refugee overcrowding in Gambella and to ensure their timely, safe, and dignified relocation to alternative sites in Assosa,” she added.

Prior to relocation, IOM provides pre-departure medical screenings (PDMS) to ensure refugees are fit for travel, referring those with medical needs to local health facilities. IOM also provides operational and medical escorts in line with its global standards, as well as high energy biscuits and water during the journey.

Emergency transportation assistance to refugees enables access to immediate life-saving services including food, shelter or health care in Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, Somali and Tigray Regions, and reducing their vulnerability to multiple protection risks. 

Relocation to the camps where provision of services is more sustainable and accessible for refugees is vital to prevent loss of life and the deterioration of the status of the refugees. Movement from Gambella will continue for the next few weeks as a maximum of 300 people can be airlifted to Assosa each day.

In 2019, IOM, with funding from US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and UNHCR, provided transportation and travel health assistance to 74,788 refugees from Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia and other nationalities.

For more information, please contact Eric Mazango at IOM Ethiopia, Tel: +251 11 6611117 (Ext. 456), Email: