Nearly 150 Ethiopian migrants who had been detained in Zambia have returned home.
The migrants, aged between 15 and 38, were released after receiving a presidential pardon.
They had been detained in Zambia for between one and five years and were serving various immigration-related sentences in prisons across the country.
“The pardoning of the migrants demonstrates the Zambian government’s commitment to address the plight of migrants and explore alternatives to detention for immigration offences, which will contribute to the decongestion of prisons,” said Zambia’s Chief of Mission for International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Abibatou Wane.
IOM Director General William Lacy Swing discussed the plight of detained migrants when he visited Zambia and met with senior government officials in May 2016.
Zambia has strict immigration laws and undocumented migrants can be prosecuted for consenting to be smuggled and given minimum prison sentences of 15 years.
Most migrants detained in Zambia come from the Horn of Africa and transit through the country en route to South Africa, where they hope to find employment and a better future for themselves and their families.
They pay USD 4,000-5,000 for the dangerous journey, which can take several weeks and often involves hiding in container trucks and walking for long stretches with little food or water.