Twelve migrants are dead and others are missing after being thrown off a boat by smugglers off the coast of Djibouti, Horn of Africa. The bodies of the deceased washed up on Champ de Tir, off the Coast of Obock, and are being recovered and buried by staff from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The thirty-four who survived are being treated for minor injuries and shock and are being cared for by IOM at the Obock, Migrant Response Centre.
The victims were among roughly 50 Ethiopians, including women on a boat, returning from Yemen, when the violence began. The tragedy comes just twelve days after eight migrants were killed and several injured by smugglers in the same area.
COVID-19 movement restrictions have left at least 14,500 African migrants stranded across Yemen, with virtually no access to food, water or health care while living through a deadly conflict and disease outbreak. Having given up on their hope of reaching and finding jobs and opportunities in the Kingdom, some were returning to escape the extreme danger in Yemen.
More and more African migrants are forced to rely on smugglers to survive and, with no options left, some are turning to them for assistance to make the perilous sea journey back to Djibouti and the Horn of Africa.
“This is yet another tragedy and a reminder about the humanitarian imperative of saving lives,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Regional Director, East & Horn of Africa.
“Just days ago eight were left dead in Djibouti. Now ten. To say more needs to be done to respond the migrants trying to reach the country, taking these perilous journeys, and being exploited by smugglers, who clearly have no regard for human life, is an understatement. Djibouti as a transit and destination country is shouldering huge responsibility and needs support.”
The incident follows the arrival of thousands of migrants into Djibouti from Yemen since July, according to IOM data. IOM Djibouti has been providing emergency medical care, food, water, tents and counselling on COVID-19 awareness and prevention measures to those arriving in Obock, and has assisted over 1,300 migrants who already had been stranded in Djibouti for months. Across Djibouti’s border in Ethiopia, IOM has been assisting returnees with food, water, clothing and other essentials they need for their journeys home.
While in Yemen, IOM provides emergency health care to newly arrived and stranded migrants, in addition to water, clothing and other essential items. In Aden city where an estimated 5,000 migrants are stranded, IOM is expanding its assistance to food vouchers and cash-for-work activities until the safe return home of the migrants can be facilitated.
But it is imperative that a safe and reliable humanitarian return pathway is established to urgently stop further deaths at sea. IOM and local authorities fear that despite this tragedy, migrants may still be waiting for a chance to re-cross the Gulf of Aden, heightening the prospect of more fatalities in the coming weeks and days.
In August, IOM launched a USD 84 million appeal – Regional Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa and Yemen (RMRP) – to respond to the needs of migrants in the Horn of Africa and Yemen taking such journeys. Many want to go home and rely on smugglers to do so for lack of alternatives.
IOM is advocating for humanitarian access to those in need of help and is working with regional governments to help those who want to return home.