Eritrean migrants arrested as Ethiopia and Kenya crackdown on irregular migration

Between March and June 2019, Kenyan authorities arrested 55 Eritrean migrants for attempting to enter the country irregularly and without any valid documents.

The latest arrest took place on 4 June and involved three Eritrean women who were travelling from Ethiopia to Nairobi. The female migrants told the court that they were on their way to Uganda where their parents live.

Another 44 Eritreans, including 17 women, were  arrested within the first three weeks of May this year.  The migrants were arrested crossing the Moyale area bordering Ethiopia and Kenya. Four Kenyans suspected of being behind the smuggling network were also arrested.

The short lived border re-opening between Eritrea and Ethiopia last September brought tens of thousands of Eritreans to Ethiopia. Now many Eritreans are attempting to cross the Ethiopia-Kenya border in order to reach Uganda and migrate further south. 

The current unrest in Libya and Sudan is pushing many Eritrean migrants in Ethiopia to abandon their plans to reach Europe and instead look for other ways to reach countries like Uganda which they believe are better for refugees. However the Ethiopia-Kenya route is becoming harder to cross for many Eritreans and as a result there has been an increase in people smuggling rings.  For example, in March 2019 Kenyan authorities apprehended three suspected smugglers for illegally entering the country.

Kenya and Ethiopia have been working to strengthen their border management and deter irregular migration.  In April this year, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) opened its first field office on the Ethiopia-Kenya border to enable local governments to work together to boost cross border cooperation and address irregular migration.

There are more than 900,000 and about 235,000 registered refugees in Ethiopia and Kenya respectively, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

TMP – 27/06/2019

Photo credit: Adisorn Chaisan/ Shutterstock

Photo caption: Eritrean migrants who attempt irregular migration risk being caught by the Kenyan authorities