Ethiopian Migrants The Focus Of A Government-led Delegation In Sudan

The Government of Ethiopia will continue negotiating with its Sudanese counterparts for a waiver of exit permit fees (equivalent to about USD100) that are payable by Ethiopian irregular migrants assisted to return home.

This is among the outcomes of a visit by a government-led delegation from Ethiopia to Sudan in late February.

Sudan is a country of origin, transit and destination for migrants, many of whom are Ethiopian seasonal workers. Some prolong their stay in Sudan not because they want to, but because they often find themselves stranded here.

According to the Ethiopian community, the number of Ethiopian migrants who travel to Sudan per year could be as high as 100,000.

Since March 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has assisted 429 Ethiopians to voluntarily return from Sudan under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration (the EU-IOM Joint Initiative).

Among them is Ayda, born and raised in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. She said about her time in Sudan: “I had to start working as a housemaid to feed myself and my daughter,” adding: “Sometimes I would only work for food and get no money. It was not easy.”

Ayda was abandoned in Sudan by a smuggler whom she had paid around USD700 to take her to the Gulf. To make ends meet, Ayda had no choice but to get a job through another broker, who claimed her monthly salary from the employer by pretending to be her brother. “I worked for a long time without a salary until I discovered that the broker was claiming it,” Ayda said.

Five years later, Ayda heard about IOM. Through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative , she obtained an identification card from the Ethiopian Embassy and had her return arranged.

The programme also paid for her house rent and her daughter’s school fees upon her return.

It is for vulnerable migrants – like Ayda - that members of the Ethiopian delegation visited Sudan. The visit marked a key step in strengthening cooperation between the two countries in facilitating safe, humane and dignified return and reintegration of vulnerable Ethiopian migrants.

The team was led by Mr. Yohannes Shode Didawa, Director General of the Ethiopian Consular Affairs Directorate in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It also included Mr. Kadir Seid, Director of Citizens’ Document Registration and Delivery Directorate and National Affairs, as well as Ms. Sara Basha and Mr. Abebe Kassaw, both from IOM Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian delegation visited the IOM-run Migrant Resource and Response Centre in Khartoum where vulnerable migrants are provided with a range of services, including psychosocial counselling, medical assistance and information on the risks of irregular migration and assisted voluntary return to their country of origin.

They also went to the Ethiopian community safe house which provides refuge to Ethiopians in distress, and met with representatives of the Ethiopian Community Association.

The delegation also met with officials from the Ethiopian Embassy in Sudan, and officials from several government ministries, including the Ministries of Foreign Affairs; Labour and Social Development, and Interior.

Sudanese government officials stressed the importance of such platforms in improving cooperation between the two countries, including in addressing challenges that Ethiopian migrants face in Sudan, and facilitating their voluntary return to Ethiopia.

All agreed to further improve cooperation to address issues related to cross border migrant smuggling and human trafficking.

Ethiopian Government officials said the visit had helped them better understand the situation of Ethiopian migrants in Sudan. They confirmed that the Ethiopian Government will address the action points set during the visit, including the renewal of the expired labour agreement signed between the two countries. They also set out to work closely with the Ethiopian Embassy in Sudan and IOM offices in both countries to facilitate the voluntary return of Ethiopian migrants.