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Abraham is Back and has Re-embraced School and Farm Life

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When he left his home in Lemu Mirt, a small town in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, Abraham Hailu had dropped out of Grade 4 with the intention of travelling to Saudi Arabia to start a new life.

Until that point he was also working on the family’s small farm. But there was no escaping the hardship. “My family was having financial troubles. I felt I wasn’t supporting them enough,” he says.

Abraham set out with a group of other young people who were also hoping to change their lives. Stories of migrants making it big in foreign lands were common in Abraham's neighbourhood, thus he did not need much prompting to leave Ethiopia.

The group made contact with smugglers who were to lead them to the Gulf region, first by walking through Djibouti and then by crossing the Gulf of Aden by boat.

Abraham paid the smugglers about USD400 and secured a place within the group. However, the journey was difficult, not least because there wasn’t enough food and water.

While a very large number of would-be migrants began the journey, “by the time we reached the coast of Djibouti roughly 60 of us were left,” he says.

But that is only as far as Abraham went. In Djibouti, tragedy struck when he was robbed of the little money he had. With barely any other choice, Abraham decided to turn back.

After three days of walking from the coast, he ended up at the International Organization for Migration's Migration Response Centre in the town of Obock, from where he was supported to return to Ethiopia under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa (the EU-IOM Joint Initiative).

Following an assessment of his needs, Abraham qualified for the support available to returnees wishing to re-establish themselves economically. His plan was to earn money in the only way he knew - through the family plot.

He received training in trading and rearing livestock and with a grant provided by the EU-IOM Joint Initiative he bought a sheep and three cows.

The programme also supported him to re-enroll in school. Three years since his return, Abraham is in Grade 7 and his business not only takes care of his needs but also supports his nine siblings and parents who all work together on the farm.

“The number of our cattle has doubled to six and our sheep have expanded from one to 20,” he says.

Abraham and his family also grow wheat and carrots. “Initially, there was a small plot of land that my family owned. But now, since we have a surplus, we rent the neighboring plots of land.”

Since the launch of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative in the Horn of Africa in March 2017, nearly 10,000 Ethiopians have been assisted to return to their communities of origin while over 5,000 have been supported to set up micro enterprises.

Many more benefit from community initiatives that aim to address some of the drivers of migration, such as the lack of viable livelihood opportunities.

The EU-IOM Joint Initiative has funded the establishment of 23 community projects in the country, with over 50,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries. The initiatives include a fish farming project at Gibe Dam as well as an animal fodder and feed production project in the Oromia region, along with an irrigation and spring water development project in Amhara region.

According to Sara Basha, coordinator of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative in Ethiopia, the aim of the community projects is “to economically empower local communities and prevent the need and urge for irregular migration.”

Ms. Basha adds: “We make sure that the respective communities are involved, from the conceptualization to the final implementation of the project, and that they take final ownership of the project once it is completed.”

Furthermore, all community projects are developed in close collaboration with local government structures. “The involvement of government offices from different levels has continued to play a key role in the success and sustainability of the community projects,” says Ms. Basha.

About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative

Launched in December 2016 with the support of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, along with the European Union and the International Organization for Migration, around the goal of ensuring that migration is safer, more informed, and better governed for both migrants and their communities.

For More information, please contact Wilson Johwa, email: wjohwa@iom.int or Abraham Sahilu, email: asahilu@iom.int