Over the past three weeks, 57 of the returnees have required medical assistance. “We were on board a truck which was taking us to the Saudi border when gunmen started shooting at us. Several of us were shot and two men were killed. The truck had to stop and we were captured by armed men,” said Alemat Fitsum, an 18-year-old returnee, who was shot in the arm.
IOM organized his return to Ethiopia and referred him to an Ethiopian hospital. Other returnees included migrants suffering burns, gunshot wounds and broken bones – some of them due to the conflict, others inflicted by traffickers, who tortured them to extort ransoms from their families.
Another returnee, Kasim Yesuf, 20, from the Northern Ethiopian province of Wollo, said that his family paid smugglers everything they had to send him to Yemen. But in Yemen he was captured by traffickers, beaten and told to call his family and ask for 5,000 (Saudi) Riyals (USD 1,333) in ransom money.
After his family paid the ransom, Kasim was put on a truck to the Saudi border, but an air strike hit the vehicle. “The doctors at the (IOM) transit center said that I will have to wait for a year before the shrapnel in my leg can be taken out,” he explained.
Another returnee, Melaku Teumai, 20, from Alamata-Tigray, Northern Ethiopia, says that he was lucky to return home uninjured.
“I was told that there are good paying jobs in Saudi herding goats, being a security guard, or working at a factory,” he said. “Because my father has passed away, I was supporting my family; I had the money to pay the smugglers. After I paid, I was put on a boat. There were 53 of us on the six hour voyage to Yemen. When we got there the Mishwar (traffickers) were waiting for us.”
Melaku and three friends were taken to a compound, where traffickers were beating migrants and demanding ransom money. Melaku’s sister, who lives in Saudi Arabia, paid 4,500 Riyals (USD 1,199) to get him released.
“Because of the war, the Mishwar did not want to take us near the border. They let us go on foot. But we were captured by another armed group who took another 2,500 Riyals (USD 666) from us. There were 12 of us walking for 12 days. A lot of Yemeni people on the street were kind and gave us food and water,” he added.