EU supports fresh start for returnees in Ethiopia

With restrictions on migration tightening in Europe, many would-be asylum seekers from Ethiopia are choosing to return home. An organization funded by the European Union is helping them to return to their country.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in the last couple of months thousands of illegal Ethiopian migrants have been forced to return home from countries like Yemen, Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania and Saudi Arabia. As of yet there is no official data about Ethiopians expelled from Europe.

Those Ethiopians who come back are disillusioned and desperate, because they failed to reach the goal they risked their lives for. The biggest challenge they face once they are back is how to begin anew. Many have debts towards those who helped them finance the trip abroad. And they have no means to pay them.

Alazaar Beshaf returned to Ethiopia from Dubai /  © DW
Alazaar Beshaf returned to Ethiopia from Dubai / © DW

An end to suffering

A lucky few are getting a chance to start their own business. About 30 returned migrants are currently getting training at the local non- profit organization LIVE-Addis. Recently they presented their business plans to LIVE-Addis. They now hope to be self employed in a couple of weeks.

Among them is Alazaar Beshaf. He went to Dubai in 2014, following a friend’s advice. He was told that he would get a better job there. A high school dropout with no legal documents, Beshaf failed to get a visa when he reached Dubai. After five months he returned home to Ethiopia. He told DW: “It was very hard for me in Dubai. I suffered a lot and for five months even the street gangsters were out to kill me.”

Bread for the neighborhood

When Beshaf returned to Addis Ababa, he approached LIVE-Addis. The organization provides assistance for returnees and to victims of human trafficking. Alazaar Beshaf has completed a 21-day training course on business management sponsored by LIVE-Addis. He feels confident that he can now start his own business.

His plan is to make injera, a soft spongy pancake-like bread which is very popular in Ethiopia. He aims at selling his product to the residents of his area. “Sixty thousand people live there. But there is no injera on offer, so they have to buy it somewhere else.” Beshaf already owns two stoves but needs four to give his business the necessary takeoff. “LIVE-Addis will give me some money and I will buy the other two stoves,” he said.

The EU steps in

EU leaders agreed in October to step up their efforts to curb illegal migration. To staunch flows along the so-called central Mediterranean route, the EU is offering trade deals and investment to African countries. In exchange for financial support African partners are to impose tighter border controls and to take back illegal migrants. This new approach by the EU is currently being applied in five African countries: Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal and Ethiopia.

Alemayehu Teshome is the executive director for LIVE-Addis, an organization funded by the European Union. He pointed out that they carefully vet the business plans presented by the future businessmen and things normally run smoothly. “It might not take us more than two weeks after the approval to provide them with start up capital,” he told DW.

The organization will then link the aspiring businessmen and women to the local administration to help get them all the licenses they need. Teshome also said LIVE-Addis also assigns community facilitators for technical support and advice when they really start their own businesses at least for six months after the new businesses have opened. Beshaf and the 31 other returnees on his course now have a chance to be successful in their own country.

© DW

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