Stranded Ethiopian Migrants Returned Home from Yemen

Ethiopia - Tempted by the new house that his neighbors could afford and propelled by his dreams for a better life, Ahmed*, 21, left Ethiopia imagining that he would find a well-paid job when he arrived in the Middle East. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

After paying smugglers to transport him across the Red Sea, his traumatic ordeal began almost immediately. He told IOM how he and other Ethiopians were handed over to multiple smugglers as soon as they arrived in Yemen, tortured and held for ransom.

Those who were able to pay were free to go, but the unlucky ones were taken to a place called Jebel, where, according to Ahmed, they were “hung upside down and beaten with chains.” 

Men and women were also raped by the kidnappers. “They also forced us to torture one another by melting plastic materials on each other’s bodies, even dousing a companion with flammable liquid and setting him ablaze,” he said.

Now that Ahmed is back in Ethiopia and deeply grateful to be alive, he now worries about his family, who lost everything, including their house and cattle – their source of livelihood – to pay the ransom money. With no money he now asks himself: “What are we going to do now and how do we pick up the pieces of our lives?”

Human trafficking and smuggling are crimes committed worldwide. In Ethiopia – a country of origin and transit for three major migration routes – IOM and other agencies have provided technical assistance to the government to improve the country’s laws to combat the crime. Proclamation 909/2015 entered into force in August 2015. The new legislation imposes harsh penalties on traffickers and smugglers and focuses on safeguarding the fundamental rights and dignity of migrants in the country and the region.

Ahmed is one of the fortunate Ethiopians evacuated from war-torn Yemen in April 2016 through the combined efforts of IOM and the Ethiopian government. To date, a total of 1,220 stranded Ethiopian migrants have been evacuated by IOM with funding from DFID, ECHO, the US State Department, Sida, UN CERF and USAIM.

Like Ahmed, many Ethiopians are still trying to reach the Gulf countries via Yemen and falling into the hands of traffickers. The Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat 2016 Report explains that the total estimated number of migrants who crossed the Gulf of Aden in March 2016 alone was 10,424 – 35 percent more than in February. Of these, 83 percent were Ethiopians.

*Name changed to ensure privacy and confidentiality.

For further information, please contact Alemayehu Seifeselassie at IOM Ethiopia, Tel: +251.11.6611117 (Ext. 455), Mobile: +251.91.1639082 Email: