The heinous and diabolical mass murder of innocent Ethiopian migrants in Libya by Islamic State (IS) Libya highlights the need for broad public dialogue, including particular interfaith consultations, on religious extremism as well as a swift governmental response to the emergency situation. As our response was united, firm and quick, long-term sustained well-reasoned action against those who slaughtered our citizens is essential. It also needs to be sober, reflective and introspective. In this piece, I would like to focus on the crucial, but long-neglected, topic of migration. Migration has to be at the top of the agenda for national dialogue. Why do we have this migration flux of Ethiopians, what is migration, and what should be done about migration?
In this brief piece, I explain why the recent savage terrorist murders and xenophobic attacks against migrants in Libya and South Africa, and the plight of Ethiopian migrants in Yemen and other migration destinations or routes should be seen from a long-term perspective. First, it is important to note that there is no easy panacea for migration-related challenges, and thus foresight and long-term engagement is required. Second, the general public assumptions about migration causes, triggers and accelerators are not necessarily scientifically supported by research. The poorest migrate nearest. It is those who can spend an average of 4000 USD who travels through the various routes of death. Safer routes cost more. Third, Ethiopia needs a national comprehensive stand-alone policy on migration that provides strategic thinking and clarity about the exploits and benefits of migration. Such a policy on migration requires a national normative, institutional and collaborative state framework and non-state organs that can facilitate voluntary, safe and legal mobility, and curb forced or illegal migration by Ethiopians. Legislative reforms needs to follow clear policy direction. Fourth, Ethiopia needs a sustained civic dialogue and engagement to address erroneous pervasive perceptions and images of ‘dreamland destinations of migration’. Fifth, Ethiopia needs to cooperate with regional, continental and international actors to enhance the role of community-led local engagement and global cooperation. Migration is a local action of an individual decision with global implications. While preventive and responsive global actions are required, the ultimate, sustainable and effective response to the migration crises lays at local level. Thereof, the need for long-term global-local collaboration to address the root causes of displacement and illegal mobility.
Migration has been part of human history, and it exhibits two broad forms: displacement or mobility. Displacement occurs when migrants are forced to move due to factors beyond their control. A result of pull factors, migration to greener pasture and better opportunities due to triggering and accelerating circusmtances constitute mobility. While tackling displacement, we need to facilitate mobility that legal and voluntary.
Countries of origin, and even transit and destination, need to develop comprehensive migration policy. The ultimate aim of such a policy on migration needs to ensure that migration is voluntary, legal, safe and orderly. The most urgent of all tasks for now is the need to end the plight of helpless Ethiopian migrants everywhere, particularly those in Libya, South Africa, Yemen, neighbouring countries and other places where they may face grave threats to their existence and livelihood, by immediately taking steps to mobilize their evacuation or seek guarantees for their protection.