A Detained Ethiopian Migrant
A detained Ethiopian migrant is screened by an IOM health team member to ensure he is fit to travel home. Photo: Moore/IOM 2019

Over 2,300 Ethiopian migrants detained in adverse conditions in Aden, Yemen, were due to return home with the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) support this week.

The eight-day operation, set to begin Saturday (25/05), was delayed by rescinded flight permissions.

Since mid-April, authorities in Aden, Abyan and Lahj governorates have detained irregular migrants – predominantly from Ethiopia – in makeshift detention sites.

At the peak, around 5,000 people were held in two sports stadium and one military camp without basic services. IOM and partners have been providing critical lifesaving support like water, food and healthcare to those detained.

As part of its support package to stranded, vulnerable migrants, IOM offers return assistance from countries in crisis under its Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme.

In Aden’s 22nd of May Stadium, IOM screened and registered 2,315 Ethiopian migrants, including 150 women and 470 children, who urgently want to return home from the conflict zone.

“IOM is offering return assistance to help protect migrants detained in Aden and we need the support of the international community to help us to get these migrants home,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies in Geneva.

IOM obtained approval from the relevant authorities to begin the return movement to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, on Saturday (25/05) with one flight planned each day until 2 June.

On Friday, the Coalition and the Government of Yemen postponed the departure of the first VHR flight until at least Wednesday (29/05). This five-day delay puts into question how many of the eight flights will be able to depart.

This delay threatens the safety of more than 2,300 migrants who continue to be held in conditions inconsistent with internationally-agreed standards, exposed to severe health and protection risks.

Earlier this month, at least 14 migrants detained in Lahj died due to complications related to acute watery diarrhea. Armed security personnel remain present in the 22nd of May Stadium, posing safety concerns and complicating humanitarian access.

“Lives have been lost due to disease brought on by the appalling detention conditions and one young man, shot while detained, will likely never walk again,” said Abdiker.

“The flight delays are putting thousands of migrants’ lives at further risk. We are urging the leaders of the Coalition and the Government of Yemen to urgently approve these flights, ensuring that all who need to go home do so with safety and dignity.”

Abdiker reaffirmed IOM’s commitment to support Yemen and other governments in the region to identify sustainable responses to irregular migration.

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