The Tale of the Oromo Refugees: From Hell to Hadramout

by Magarsa Mukhtar, OPride HOA Correspondent*

June 24, 2012 (Opride) – More than 20 Ethiopian migrants caught while trying to cross into the de-facto breakaway state of Somaliland have been promptly repatriated back to Ethiopia, local Somaliland press reported.

Somaliland’s location, adjacent to the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, makes it an ideal transit point for migrants hoping to make the 1800km long, treacherous journey to the port city of Bosaso, where they would then board smuggler-run ships to Yemen.

With increased security along the border towns of Wajale, Gebilay, Allaybaday and Arabsiyo, Somaliland police and customs unit have detained Ethiopian migrants on several occasions in a series of measures meant to curb the entry of Ethiopians into the state.

This comes against a backdrop of controversial deportations of Oromo refugees by the Somaliland government, a move that has signaled a drastic shift from the state’s traditionally apathetic policy towards UN-recognized refugees to zero-tolerance citing reasons of over-utilization of infrastructure, threats to national security, and public health. According to IRIN, the UN humanitarian news service, the Puntland government had also taken similar measures in 2010, arresting and deporting hundreds of Ethiopian migrants .

Given the increased repression and the lack of opportunities in their homeland, despite all the efforts to curb migration along the border, many Ethiopian migrants continue to risk their lives and make the toilsome journey to Somaliland.

Arguments about the positive effects of measures taken by these governments have proved counter-intuitive. The notion that arrests and deportations would preempt this transnational movement of people –– when harrowing stories of deaths, drowning, and disappearances of thousands have failed to dishearten these desperate migrants –– seems illogical at best. An overwhelming number of Ethiopian migrants attempting to cross into Yemen by way of Somalia are Oromos. This begs the question: What are the causes for this exodus? What has been the outcome of it all?

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