70 Migrants Drown Within 5 Months, IOM Says

543 views | Akpan Akata | March 5, 2021

June 7, 2014 - Mediterranean Sea / Italy: Italian navy rescues asylum seekers traveling by boat off the coast of Africa. More than 2,000 migrants jammed in 25 boats arrived in Italy June 12, ending an international operation to rescue asylum seekers traveling from Libya. They were taken to three Italian ports and likely to be transferred to refugee centers inland. Hundreds of women and dozens of babies, were rescued by the frigate FREMM Bergamini as part of the Italian navy's "Mare Nostrum" operation, launched last year after two boats sank and more than 400 drowned. Favorable weather is encouraging thousands of migrants from Syria, Eritrea and other sub-Saharan countries to arrive on the Italian coast in the coming days. Cost of passage is in the 2,500 Euros range for Africans and 3,500 for Middle Easterners, per person. Over 50,000 migrants have landed Italy in 2014. Many thousands are in Libya waiting to make the crossing. (Massimo Sestini/Polaris)

No less than 70 migrants have lost their lives in the last five months with the latest incident of Wednesday claiming 20 lives. Two similar incidents in October claimed the lives of at least 50 migrants.

Twenty people have drowned after smugglers threw dozens of migrants overboard early Wednesday morning during their journey from Djibouti to Yemen, the third such incident on the Gulf of Aden in six months.

Survivors receiving medical treatment at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Migrant Response Centre in Obock said at least 200 migrants including children were crowded aboard the vessel when it departed.

Thirty minutes into the journey the smugglers forced roughly 80 people into the sea. Five bodies were recovered yesterday.

IOM Djibouti Chief of Mission, Stephanie Daviot, says “we work closely with the authorities in Djibouti to assist migrants, but Wednesday’s tragedy is further proof that criminals continue to exploit people desperate to improve their lives for profit regardless of the consequences.

“Smugglers and human traffickers must be prosecuted for their crimes, and new migration pathways established to allow people to pursue work opportunities abroad in a safe, legal and dignified manner.”

Every year, tens of thousands of young African migrants from the region make the dangerous journey from countries like Somalia and Ethiopia to Djibouti, before boarding vessels to Yemen and traveling onwards to the Gulf nations in search of work.

COVID-19 mobility restrictions have drastically reduced travel; roughly 138,000 people made the journey in 2019, compared with 37,500 in 2020. In January 2021, over 2,500 migrants reached Yemen from Djibouti and the fear is that, as restrictions ease, more migrants are waiting to cross, raising the prospect of future tragedies.

In Yemen thousands of migrants are believed to be stranded. Many are facing extreme danger, exploitation and abuse. IOM, in both Djibouti and Yemen has been providing emergency medical care, food, water and counselling to stranded migrants.

In August 2020, IOM launched a USD84M appeal – Regional Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa and Yemen (RMRP) – to respond to the needs of migrants on the  Horn of Africa and Yemen, including Djibouti.  

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