African nations seeks ways to stop flow of refugees to South Africa

10 November 2014

A three-day Migration Dialogue conference was organised by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Tanzania from 7 November 2014, to respond to the ever-evolving and complex dynamics of migration flows from the Horn of Africa, through Kenya and Tanzania to South Africa.

Some 24 senior representatives from the governments of Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia, and from IOM and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), met in Zanzibar to discuss the migration challenges facing the region and how to address them. The event was funded by Japan, as part of IOM’s Voluntary Return Assistance to Migrants in Tanzania project.

International migratory movements in Africa have become more complex and mixed in recent years, with flows comprising asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants. The exodus of migrants from the Horn of Africa (mainly Ethiopia) to South Africa is a central issue.

Each year, thousands of mainly young Ethiopians risk their lives in an attempt to reach South Africa, where they hope to establish better lives for themselves and their families. Migrants often sacrifice their life savings to pay smugglers amounts of up to $4 000 (about R45 000) to facilitate the journey.

Human smuggling has become a thriving multi-billion dollar industry, which feeds off people’s desperation to improve their lives. Migrants are loaded into trucks by smugglers or left in “safe” houses in the jungle in Tanzania for days or weeks without food or water. Kenya and Tanzania are significant transit countries and many migrants are intercepted by the authorities en route.

“Migrants are above all human beings and have the same human rights as anyone else. They should not be exposed to situations in which their lives are threatened. But the root causes of migration from the Horn to South Africa must be addressed by the governments concerned in order to come up with sustainable solutions to this migration crisis,” said Damien Thuriaux, IOM’s chief of mission in Tanzania.

The meeting followed a 2010 regional conference on refugee protection and international migration, during which 13 African states met to discuss mixed movements and irregular migration from the East, Horn and Great Lakes sub-regions to Southern Africa.

IOM’s Voluntary Return Assistance to Migrants in Tanzania project has returned over 220 detained Ethiopian migrants this year so far, and is planning to return a total of up to 800 by the end of the year. Since 2009, IOM Tanzania has helped over 2 500 Ethiopian detainees to return home.

Source: APO