t has been over four solid agonizing years since Mrs Genet, 62, begun her life of solitude in her slum house in Addis Abeba’s Ferensay Legasion. Redwan Mussa, her grandson, was the only relative she had left when he departed in search of a brighter future outside his country’s borders. Redwan, 22, took a treacherous journey four years ago to the Middle East through the perilous migration route of Bosaso, Somalia. That is all what his elderly grandma is aware of.
Is Redwan doing well in the Middle East? Why has he not at least given her a call? Has he even made it to his intended destination? Mrs. Genet is clueless. She occasionally gets horrible ideas. But she would rather maintain her optimism.
The pain of his absence weighs heavily on her soul, as she navigates through life with a lingering sense of loneliness. “I have no one to rely on,” she said with a tone filled with despair. Dependent on her grandson to provide for their daily sustenance, she found herself abandoned and left to fend for herself. Determined to overcome adversity, she made the difficult decision to rent out a part of her modest dwelling in the slum, seeking to generate an income and secure her livelihood.
In fact migrants like Redwan face various hardships before they make it to the Middle East. Aleyu Hassen, who once set out on a treacherous journey from his birthplace of Wollo in the Amhara Regional State to Saudi Arabia in search of opportunities that would change his life and that of his family, saw firsthand the unforgiving nature of human trafficking networks. Aleyu joined a group of fellow migrants and started their journey through the barren deserts of Sudan navigating through difficult terrain, relying on nothing but their resilience and the hope that lay within.
‘I witnessed People including women and children were exploited and their lives discarded like mere commodities’ Aleyu recalled. Haunted by the terrible memories of his journey, he said’ “I had nightmares about the desert, the bandits, and the smugglers. I also had to deal with the emotional scars of my journey and those we missed along the way,”
The issue of missing migrants in Africa has reached critical proportions. Every year, a distressing number of migrants vanish along perilous migratory routes, both during their journeys and after reaching countries destination.
It is staggering to see the number of missing persons and deaths related to migration. One statistics of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) alone has registered over 64,000 missing persons in Africa and more than 75,000 deaths globally since 1996, with 40,000 deaths occurring since 2014.
The Missing Migrants Project by IOM reports that in 2023, over 4,038 migrants have either died or gone missing in the Mediterranean. Over the course of 2014 to 2023, 58,435 individuals went missing.
According to Médecins Sans Frontières( MSF )report, in 2022, over 2,367 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, with Libya being a primary destination, exposing migrants to violence, including kidnapping, torture, and extortion.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) latest report, on August 2023, featured a testimony of Munira, a 20-year-old girl from Ethiopia’s Oromia Regional State. She vividly described the horrifying scenes that unfolded after Saudi border guards released her and 19 others at the border with Yemen.
Munira recalled how narrowly she escaped with her life, saying “They fired on us like rain.”
Unfortunately, all of these statistics and details highlight the scale and alarming scope of the problem and highlight the harsh reality of irregular migration. However, the statistics may be an underestimate due to the large number of unreported cases, with most migrant deaths primarily occur due to drowning, vehicle accidents, and hazardous transportation.
Bruce Orina, Delegation to the African Union and ICRC in Africa calls for cooperation to address harmful narratives. “By understanding the true impact of migration and working to combat harmful narratives, we can help alleviate the fear and anxiety that so many people feel,” he stated.
With 80 percent of African migration occurring within the continent itself, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is widely recognized as a region characterized by significant migration. According to the 2023 Africa Center for Strategic Studies, African migration has consistently risen over the past two decades. The current record level of over 40 million African migrants reflects a notable 30-percent increase since 2010.
In 2018, over 150 countries adopted the Global Compact for Migration as a potential resolution. The compact was aimed at gathering and exchanging information to locate missing migrants and communicate with their loved ones.
Despite this, challenges persist in implementing effective measures and the initiative has identified that some countries have tightened their migration policies, taking steps to discourage foreign nationals from entering their territories.
For instance, according to a report by MSF, certain European countries are increasing detention facilities outside their borders and strengthening national borders in an effort to curb migration.
However, these efforts have led migrants to turn to smugglers and expose themselves to further risks.
According to Bruce, the issue of migration requires collaboration between governments and international organizations. He believes that the safety and protection of migrants along their migration routes must be a priority. Bruce also cautions against viewing migration through criminal or security lenses, emphasizing the need for a careful approach.
“It is important to acknowledge the vulnerability of migrants and their need for protection. We need not look migration from criminal or security lenses when able to regularize mobility,” he told The Reporter.
Various efforts are being made around the world to address the issue of missing migrants. In July 2021, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) adopted a resolution focused on protecting the rights of missing migrants and refugees in Africa and their families.
The resolution aims to prevent disappearances, advocate for safety measures, and promote policies that protect migrants, with also the calls for the establishment of Common Africa Position (CAP) on missing migrants.
However, despite the adoption of the resolution, there has been a lack of targeted promotion and engagement with stakeholders to implement the resolution effectively.
A high-level meeting on “Policy to Action” for missing migrants in Africa was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on August 30th, 2023. The meeting brought together government representatives, regional economic communities, and key migration actors to address the alarming number of missing migrants. Proposals for enhanced border management, providing safe alternatives, and addressing the root causes of dangerous journeys were discussed, emphasizing the importance of collective action.
Oliver Hoehne, the Deputy Ambassador of Switzerland to Ethiopia and the AU, emphasized the significance of the event in enhancing understanding of the challenges faced by missing migrants and guiding collective action to address these issues. He underscored the intricate connections between armed conflict and migration, highlighting that efforts solely focused on migrants would not suffice if new armed conflicts continue to arise.
“Collective action is crucial in tackling missing migrants in Africa, and involving all stakeholders improves search and rescue operations,” he remarked.
The issue of migrants crossing borders is exacerbated by the lack of comprehensive records documenting their numbers and the tragic fatalities they face. The lack of organized data makes it challenging to determine the exact number of missing migrants and their fate.
The lack of a common documentation and data sharing between member states of Africa, has according to Bruce, led to families and loved ones losing contact with their missing relatives is causing great concern.
Ergogie Tesfaye(PhD) Minister of Women and Social Affairs also highlighted that due to the lack of an appropriate documentation system in most African countries, including Ethiopia, migrants’ life is at stake. Her office is tasked with preventing irregular migration by promoting professional empowerment and discouraging irregular migration.
According to available reports, Ethiopia has deployed more than 100,000 workers to various destination countries as part of bilateral labor agreements signed by the Ethiopian government. Ergogie acknowledges that there is still much work yet to be done to address the significant challenges associated with migration.
In the midst of her profound sorrow and the enduring ache of losing her beloved grandson, Mrs Genet clings to a flicker of hope. Each passing day, Genet clings onto fragile hope, praying for the news that will reunite with her grandson Redwan once again.
“I long for nothing more than to have my grandson back in my life before my time comes to an end,” said Genet