Six hundred vulnerable children in Ethiopia are the focus of a new partnership between the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Save the Children.
The partnership agreement provides for direct service provision, capacity building and a multi-sectoral approach to ensure the protection and sustainable reintegration of migrant children while providing a safe and nurturing family environment for children generally.
It seeks to build on available structures, simultaneously strengthening the capacity of government and grassroot structures to respond to the protection concerns of child returnees and other children.
Over the next 18 months 400 migrant returnees and 200 other vulnerable children will be earmarked for assistance in eight sub-regions in East Hararghe, Oromia and Amhara’s North Wollo Zones.
Families will receive support in parenting skills development and will be supported to engage in income generating activities so that they can provide for their children.
Child returnees will themselves be supported with skills training, including soft skills development – such as self-confidence and self-awareness – in order to strengthen their transition to adulthood.
This is the fourth such partnership under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration focusing in Ethiopia’s regional states prone to irregular migration.
IOM already is collaborating with three other local organizations to reach vulnerable children: the Mary Joy Development Association, Facilitator for Change and the Forum on Sustainable Child Empowerment. Ultimately over 1000 children will be reached through these four partnerships.
Children on the move are a particularly vulnerable group, with the Horn of Africa seeing significant numbers. Ethiopia, which is Africa’s second most populous country, accounts for the largest migrant movements in a region that also includes the countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan.
To date, IOM has provided voluntary return and reintegration assistance to 5,000 Ethiopian migrants under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative, of whom 20 per cent are children. Some 1,300 children have received needs-based reintegration assistance since 2017.”
Under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative, assistance is tailor-made for returning migrants seeking to restart their lives in their countries of origin. This is done through an integrated approach that supports both migrants and their communities, has the potential to complement local development and to mitigate some of the drivers of irregular migration.
According to the coordinator of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative in Ethiopia, Sara Basha, establishing effective partnerships is among the programme’s strengths. Addressing the needs of vulnerable population especially migrant children is a complex undertaking which requires strong partnership with various stakeholders across the board.
Unaccompanied children are among the migrants traversing key migration routes in search of opportunities in other countries, with Saudi Arabia, Europe and South Africa being key destinations favoured by Ethiopians.
Data on child migrants are few and far between, especially on the routes to Europe and South Africa. But a 2019 IOM report ‘Fatal Journey, Missing Migrant Children, Volume Four’ estimates that over 6000 child migrants lost their lives in Africa between 2014 and 2018. Worldwide, nearly 1,600 children – an average of almost one every day – were reported dead or missing over the same period, although many more go unrecorded.
According a 2017 report by Unicef, entitled: A Child is a Child: Protecting Children on the Move from Violence, Abuse and Exploitation, the number of children travelling alone increased five-fold since 2010. It warned that many young refugees and migrants were taking highly dangerous routes, often at the mercy of human traffickers.
From January to July 2019, IOM’s drop-in facilities for stranded migrants in the Horn of Africa – also known as Migrant Response Centres – registered 1,224 minors, amounting to 18% of all registrations. Fifty-nine percent of these children were unaccompanied and 41% accompanied (unaccompanied minors are usually between 15-17, while younger children are usually accompanied).
Between May 2017 and July 2019, IOM recorded 21,657 Ethiopian minors returning to Ethiopia from Saudi Arabia – mostly involuntarily – which is around 8% of the total number of returnees from Saudi Arabia to the Horn of Africa. In June and July 2019 alone, IOM registered 1,869 minors as having returned from Saudi Arabia.
Since May 2019, IOM assisted the voluntary humanitarian return of 2742 migrants who were detained in a stadium in Yemen. Twenty-two chartered flights brought the returnees to Ethiopia, of which 1180 were minors.
The EU-IOM Joint Initiative facilitates orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration management through the development of rights-based and development-focused procedures and processes on protection and sustainable reintegration. The project, funded under the European Union Trust Fund for Africa covers and has been set up in close cooperation with a total of 26 African countries.