Thirty six unaccompanied migrant children among a total of 387 Ethiopian migrants who had held in Malawian prisons for immigration offences, will return home this week to join their families with the help of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the government of the United States of America, IOM said here Friday in a statement.
The statement said the voluntary repatriation will be conducted in close cooperation with the Malawian Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security and the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Representatives of IOM – Malawi and IOM- Ethiopia; the Ethiopian embassy in Kenya; the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as Malawi’s Prisons and Immigration Departments visited the Maula, Dedza, Ntchisi, Chichire and Kachere prisons located in various parts of Malawi and verified the nationality of detained Ethiopian migrants. Following the verification, the migrants were issued with travel documents that will allow them to return home.
“We are deeply disturbed by the fact that almost one in every ten detained Ethiopian migrants happens to be a child. Irregular migration carries enormous risks including injuries, disease, exploitation and detention.
“When the migrant is an unaccompanied child, these hazards are further compounded. Malawi’s overcrowded prisons demonstrated this very clearly,” IOM – Malawi head, Stephane Trocher said.
He added that IOM and the government of Malawi are in discussions with other partners to devise ways of decongesting the prisons including through alternatives to detention, dialogue with countries of origin, revisiting sentencing strategies and in the long run, the development of a comprehensive migration policy to manage migration in a humane and orderly fashion.
Every year thousands of Ethiopian irregular migrants risk their lives trying to enter South Africa through the southern corridor. Most are transported by well-paid smugglers, who benefit from the fact that there are few legal migration options. Malawi has become a transit country to Mozambique and Zambia, en route to South Africa.