Horn of Africa faces migrant catastrophe
By FRED OLUOCH
The Horn of Africa is facing a migration crisis as about 1.4 million people are expected to move from Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti to Yemen and other gulf countries, triggered by persistent insecurity and conflicts in the region, harsh climate conditions, unemployment, political persecution and the downturn of economies.
Humanitarian organisations warn of a rise in migration from the Horn in 2023 that could reach the peak of pre-Covid figures of 1.4 million. They are calling on governments in the region to act to address the causes of migration – such as conflict and climate change – before the floodgates open.
At the launch of the regional Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa and Yemen on February 14, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) appealed for $84 million to provide humanitarian and development assistance to migrants and the communities hosting them.
The money will also go to setting up mechanisms for access to return, sustainable reintegration, community stabilisation in their countries of origin, and helping government address the drivers of migration.
According to IOM, more than 45,072 migrants are currently stranded on the Eastern Route between Djibouti and Yemen and 250,000 in Yemen, putting pressure on the country’s economy and health services. Every year, thousands of migrants leave their countries in the Horn of Africa and move along the Eastern route toward Gulf countries, making the dangerous crossing of the Red Sea through Bossaso in Somalia, and Djibouti’s coastal town of Obock to Yemen and further by land to Gulf countries.
In 2022, the number of migrants who entered Djibouti almost doubled compared to the previous year. About 89 migrant deaths or disappearances were recorded along the route due to hazardous transportation, illness, harsh environmental conditions, drowning at sea and violence. Many more deaths and disappearances go unreported.
Some of the migrants are hijacked along the way by human traffickers or are forcefully recruited into the Houthi Rebels ranks.
“Yemen is a stopover to the rest of the Gulf countries. However, Houthi rebels are taking advantage to forcefully recruit some of the stranded migrants as fighters,” said Dr Mohammed Al Adeel, the Yemeni Deputy Minister of Expatriate Affairs.