42 dead after smuggler's boat carrying 60 migrants capsizes off Djibouti coast

Obock, Djibouti, April 14, 2021

At least 42 people have died after a boat operated by people smugglers, transporting approximately 60 migrants escaping conflict in Yemen, capsized on its way to Djibouti in the early hours of Monday morning, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday.

Every year, tens of thousands of young African migrants from the region make the dangerous journey from countries like Somalia and Ethiopia through Djibouti and Yemen in search for work in the Gulf.

COVID-19 is forcing many to turn back due to widespread border closures that have reduced access to Gulf states. It is unknown what caused the vessel to capsize, a press release from IOM said.

Similar journeys between Yemen and Djibouti are being undertaken aboard unseaworthy vessels by migrants desperate to return home on a near daily basis.

According to the release, despite the dangers, the number of migrants arriving in Djibouti continues to increase. In March, over 2,343 migrants arrived from Yemen, compared to 1,900 in February. Most were trying to head home to Ethiopia and Somalia. Last month, in a similar incident this time en route to Yemen, smugglers threw 80 people overboard after complaining the boat was overcrowded and sinking. At least 20 drowned, according to survivors.

“IOM is working with the Djiboutian authorities, the humanitarian community, and donors to end this suffering and save lives,” said IOM Djibouti Chief of Mission Stephanie Daviot.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of migrants from the Horn of Africa are trapped in Yemen. Many are living in dangerous conditions, usually without access to food, shelter, medical care and security. Migrants are forced to pay smugglers large sums of money to facilitate their journeys home. IOM in Djibouti and Yemen is providing food, water, medical care and counselling for survivors of such tragedies and other migrants.

In Yemen, over 6,000 migrants have been identified and registered for Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR), assistance to get home. IOM is calling on governments in the region to increase VHR for stranded migrants.

In March, IOM launched a US$ 99 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, including Djibouti.

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