A group of 53 unaccompanied Ethiopian child migrants, who were returned from detention in Malawi by IOM early this month, were reunited with their families on September 8.
After their release they were flown to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and stayed in IOM’s migrant transit center until the IOM mission in Ethiopia could trace their families. The children, all boys aged 12-17, have now all returned home.
The return of the migrants and the reunification with their families was facilitated by IOM, in partnership with the US International Association for International Migration (USAIM), and in coordination with the governments of Ethiopia and Malawi.
This operation was possible thanks to a donation from Raising Malawi, a non-profit organization founded by the singer Madonna.
Last week she shared the news on the Raising Malawi twitter account: “With all the madness in this world, I am grateful to share some light. All the 53 Ethiopian boys who were detained in #Malawi for over 10 months have been reunited with their families in #Ethiopia. Thank you #IOM and the #Malawian government for working with us to make this a reality.” The singer signed the tweet with her initial “M”.
A few days earlier, she had already announced on her own social media accounts the return to Ethiopia of the unaccompanied child migrants.
“53 Ethiopians boys were detained and imprisoned since last November for traveling through Malawi without visas. Thanks to IOM and the financial assistance of @raisingmalawi and the cooperation of the Malawian government they are all heading home this week!! Can I get an AMEN??? Thanks to everyone who helped!”
The migrants were headed to South Africa when they were caught crossing the border illegally. Malawi is a transit country for migrants from the Horn of Africa heading to South Africa to find work. Due to a lack of alternatives to detention facilities, when caught, undocumented migrants, including children often end up in overcrowded prisons. As a result, the Government of Malawi has asked for help in establishing a transit centre as an alternative to prison.