From Kaisen Training to Micro-Businesses: Lessons on Migrant Reintegration in Ethiopia

Assisting stranded migrants to return to their countries of origin is a humanitarian act that often saves lives, allowing those supported – including minors – to set and pursue new goals.


Yet for Ethiopia, a country of departure, this is a major challenge because of the numbers involved. For example, since 2017 more than 410,000 migrants have been forcibly repatriated from Saudi Arabia alone.


Over the same timeframe, 24,500 Ethiopians have been supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to voluntarily return, including 9,600 under a European Union-funded programme known as the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa (“the EU-IOM Joint Initiative” or “JI”).


Described as the first programme to comprehensively assist stranded migrants on key migration routes in Africa, the EU-IOM Joint Initiative also facilitated the reintegration of more than 6,000 vulnerable migrants in Ethiopia. This has enabled them to re-establish their lives within their communities of origin.


Reintegration is complex, multi-faced and devoid of any one-size-fits-all model. More than 3,700 have received training in Kaizen principles, meant to support entrepreneurship. Over 5,000 micro-enterprises have been funded in 70 business types, including carpentry​, farming​, the retail trade, among others.


Such economic reintegration support is usually preceded by psychosocial assistance that includes group counselling, individual counselling, and orientation in how to plan for a new beginning. Yet another aspect, social reintegration, provides vulnerable returnees with a place to stay, food, assistance with enabling documents, training, as well as with access to justice.


Through the community-based reintegration approach, 20 community projects were established, benefitting more than 50,000 people in areas affected by migration and with high numbers of returnees.


Integral to the EU-IOM Joint Initiative is capacity building. The programme brought together 49 state and non-state actors and supported 293 stakeholders who collaborated in the production of training manuals and standard operating procedures on return and reintegration.


“The JI has opened a pathway on how reintegration needs to be conducted in Ethiopia,” commented Dr. Genet Teshome, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during a briefing with donor representatives.


However, under the current funding commitment the programme is winding down ahead of its end date in early 2022, although efforts are ongoing to secure new resources, such as through the EU’s new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI).


The need for return and reintegration support remains undiminished, nonetheless. In fact, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many more migrants are in need of assistance.


For instance, about 14,500 Ethiopians are stranded in Yemen, a transit country for those intending to get to the Gulf States to find work. Hundreds others are in detention in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and countries along the ‘Southern migration route’ towards South Africa.​


Five years since its launch, the EU-IOM Joint Initiative offers several lessons to successor initiatives in the Horn of Africa region and elsewhere. They include:


Reintegration is long-term and not a quick fix. Interventions need sustained investment in time and effort before showing results.


Reintegration is expensive. With hundreds of migrants returning to Ethiopia every month, there are limited resources to respond to their needs. Thus, it is usually only the most vulnerable who are supported.


Structural level support is crucial for the sustainability of reintegration programmes. This helps to ensure a uniform approach to reintegration, with the government leading and owning the process.


A holistic approach to reintegration is needed. Under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative this covers economic, social and psychosocial needs. Reintegration support is tailored to individual needs, and also entails working through communities of return.


The need to establish a national referral mechanism. A strong and robust national referral mechanism ensures that vulnerable returnees have access to key services.


Targeting households with child migrants and encouraging minors to go back to school. Without adequate education, young people would continue to view irregular migration as the only viable option to escape poverty.


The need to strengthen advocacy and to use local media to create awareness on the risks among migrants, potential migrants, and their communities of origin.


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.



Source: International Organization for Migration

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