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Eight African migrants drown,  several others injured off the Horn of Africa 

 

Staff from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) today (05/10) assisted Djiboutian authorities as they attended to the grim task of recovering and burying eight drowning victims whose remains washed ashore after a lethal journey from Yemen over the weekend.

The victims—from a total of 34 mainly Ethiopian and Somali migrants seeking to return to Africa after attempting to find work in the Arabian Gulf—make even more tragic a recent wave of Africans arriving in Djibouti.

“It was at night and the smugglers turned off all the lights on the boat, claiming we were being followed the Coast Guard. But they were lying,” 19-year-old survivor Galgalou Haji Wacho from Oromo, Ethiopia, told IOM.  “There was no Coast Guard. They started hitting us with sticks and iron bars.”

Mr. Haji Wacho said he was in the water for nearly two hours, struggling to make out the coastline ahead. “I could not see anything,” he recalled. “It was pitch black. I did not know whether I was dead or alive.”

He and twenty-five others, some of whom suffered injuries, today are receiving medical treatment at IOM’s Migrant Response Centre in Obock.

READ  Covid 19: UN in West and Central Africa worry about migrants as traffickers abandon victims in desert 

While thousands of African migrants remain stranded Yemen, authorities fear some of those may be waiting for a chance to re-cross the dangerous waters many already braved to get to the Arabian Gulf just months ago. Thus, the prospect grows of more fatalities in the coming weeks and days.

Said Stephanie Daviot, Chief of Mission, IOM Djibouti, “This tragedy is a wake-up call. Migrants are arriving in Djibouti in large numbers from Yemen. Regional governments and the international community must come together to address a situation of dangerous journeys facing migrants in the region since the outbreak of COVID-19. Migrants who are unable to move forward in their journey and with no means to return home.”

She added: “Risking their lives, facing exploitation from smugglers, and in this instance, very tragically, death and injury, these migrants run a gauntlet that makes a mockery of respecting migrants’ human rights and dignity. IOM is concerned there could be further drownings.”

The tragedy follows the arrival of some 2,678 migrants from Yemen into Djibouti since July, according to IOM data. Say others who have arrived here in recent weeks, most are trying to return to Ethiopia and other nations after having failed to reach the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia despite managing to leave Africa for Yemen.

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Due to COVID-19 related border closures, and the extreme danger facing migrants in the Gulf state, many have given up on their hope of finding jobs and opportunities in the Kingdom.

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. Moreover, IOM has assisted an estimated 1,239 migrants who already had been stranded in Djibouti for months.

Meanwhile, across Djibouti’s border in Ethiopia, IOM has been assisting returnees with food, water, clothing and other essentials they need for their journeys home.

In August, IOM launched a USD84M 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, and to help an estimated 14,000 migrants currently stranded in Yemen. Many want to go home and rely on smugglers to do so for lack of alternatives.

READ  UNODC Executive Director launches strategic vision for Africa 2030

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.

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Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

COMPASS will provide vulnerable migrants including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children access to a broad range of protection and assistance services.

 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions initiative (COMPASS) at the beginning of 2021. COMPASS is a global initiative, in partnership with 12 countries, designed to protect people on the move, combat human trafficking and smuggling, and support dignified return while promoting sustainable reintegration.

The initiative is centred on a whole-of-society approach which, in addition to assisting individuals, will work across all levels – households, communities, and the wider communities – and encompasses the following partner countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

“We want to mobilize families, peers and communities to encourage informed and safe migration decisions, protect migrants, and help those returning home reintegrate successfully,” said Monica Goracci, Director of the Department of Migration Management at IOM.

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“One key component is also undermining the trafficking and smuggling business models through the promotion of safe alternatives and information sharing to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse by these criminal networks.” Vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children, will have access to a broad range of protection and assistance services such as mental health and psychosocial support, while migrants in transit who wish to return home will be supported with dignified return and reintegration.

Community level interventions will focus on improving community-led efforts to address trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and support sustainable reintegration of returning migrants. COMPASS will work with national and local governments to enable a conducive environment for migrant protection, migration management and international cooperation on these issues.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to launch the COMPASS programme in cooperation with IOM, an important and longstanding partner on migration cooperation,” said Marriët Schuurman, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

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“The programme is a part of the Dutch comprehensive approach to migration with activities that contribute to protection and decreasing irregular migration. Research and data gathering are also important components, and we hope that the insights that will be gained under COMPASS will contribute to broader knowledge sharing on migration and better-informed migration policies.”, added Schuurman. The initiative has a strong learning component, designed to increase knowledge and the uptake of lessons learned, both within the programme and beyond its parameters. COMPASS will actively contribute to global knowledge that supports countries in managing migration flows and protecting vulnerable migrants such as victims of trafficking. The implementation of COMPASS is set to start soon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, as the donor to the COMPASS initiative, pledges its active support to partner countries to improve migration cooperation mechanisms within its long-term vision. 

IOM, the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, contributes its expertise as the technical implementation partner to the initiative. IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners in its dedication to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. 

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A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia

Photo: Mediterranean Sea

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by reports of a shipwreck off the coast of Sidi Mansour, in southeast Tunisia, yesterday evening. The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved.

According to reports from local UNHCR and IOM teams, three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard. The search effort was still underway on Friday. Based on initial information, all those who perished were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand State-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year. Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, 39 refugees and migrants had perished off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax in early March. So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020.

READ  Nigerian governor resettles over 1,000 IDPs after attack on his convoy

UNHCR and IOM continue to monitor developments closely. They continue to stand ready to work with the national authorities to assist and support the survivors, and the family members of those lost.

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Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

Yemen: Stranded Ethiopian migrants prepare to board an IOM-facilitated flight from Aden, Yemen, to fly home to Addis Ababa. Photo: IOM/Majed Mohammed 2021

One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen today with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just one day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed the lives of dozens of people, including at least 16 children.

More than 32,000 migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often deadly, circumstances.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies.

At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their vessel sank off the coast of Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people had also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM believes that, since May 2020, over 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.

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“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country now experiencing its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to allow migrants safe and dignified opportunities to travel home,” added Labovitz.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journeys, stranded across Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

While the pandemic has also caused the number of migrants arriving to Yemen to decrease from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to rise. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping rough without shelter or access to services. Many others are in detention or being held by smugglers.

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“We cannot find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us,” said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the VHR flight. “I used to sleep in the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people would give me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.”

Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered over 6,000 migrants who need support to safely return home. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second transporting an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians who have been approved for VHR to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.

Prior to departure on the VHR flight, IOM carried out medical and protection screenings to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and are voluntarily consenting to return. Those with special needs are identified and receive specialized counselling and support.

In Ethiopia, IOM supports government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees on arrival and provides cash assistance, essential items and onward transportation to their homes. The Organization also supports family tracing for unaccompanied migrant children.

READ  UNESCO, UNHCR plead for young refugees' education

Across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving support to migrants through health care, food, water and other vital assistance.

Today’s flight was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Post-arrival assistance in Addis Ababa is supported by EU Humanitarian Aid and PRM.

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