Addis Ababa – IOM, the UN Migration Agency has relocated over 15,000 Eritrean refugees in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia since 1 March 2017. In close partnership with the Government of Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs and the UNHCR, IOM has medically screened and transported newly arrived Eritrean refugees from the Reception Centre in Endabaguna/Shire to four refugee camps in the North of Ethiopia.
“Currently IOM is relocating an average of about 100 persons per day which represents an increase in what has been the most continual refugee flow into Ethiopia in 2017,” said Khatab Khalid, the head of IOM Ethiopia’s Shire Sub-Office.
According to official figures, there were 21,215 new Eritrean refugee arrivals to Ethiopia in 2016 while over 20,000 have arrived in 2017 to date. Most of the refugees are youth with 46 per cent of the total transported by IOM aged between 18-24 years old. Many of them report walking for days to reach Ethiopia.
“I was a sophomore political science student in university back in Eritrea, despite performing well in my studies, I did not see myself making a good living after graduation. I would have probably ended up as a teacher and earned a meagre salary which would have been just enough to stay alive,” said Goitom, one of the young refugees. The young man explained how he was sent to jail for eight months when his first attempt to leave the country failed. He was then released and conscripted into the military but later managed to successfully flee to Ethiopia.
Tigist (19) said that she dropped out of high school at grade 11 and decided to migrate. However, she also did not make it to the border and was caught by a border patrol last year. After being sent to jail for a year, she decided to migrate again. “My family were disappointed at my decision to migrate last year. They said that I should have consulted them before deciding to migrate.”
The only girl in a family of boys, her family supported her but she did not want to share her plans to migrate with her family as she suspected this might get them in trouble.
Both Goitom and Tigist hope that they can get back to their studies somehow and graduate either in Ethiopia or abroad.
(Names of the interviewees has been changed for their safety and that of their families)