A 26-year-old Ethiopian migrant, Ahmed, spent 20 days travelling from Ethiopia to Djibouti on foot, bound for the coastal town of Obock, a common departure point for crossing the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, and then onward to Saudi Arabia.
This migratory route last year saw over 138,000 young Ethiopian migrants, according to the International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix. But it is not without risk.
Ahmed was abandoned by smugglers and was stuck in Obock for a month.
“The borders closed shortly after I reached Obock”, he explains, adding, “and the smugglers abandoned me there with no food, water or shelter. I do not have any money and I am desperate to go home to my family.”
Besides Ahmed, another 68 have been living in a Migrant Response Centre operated by IOM, which assists stranded migrants in the town of Obock. Fourteen are minors. IOM Djibouti is providing life-saving support.
At the moment, more than 1,200 young migrants are stranded in Djibouti due to COVID-19 border closures and movement restrictions.
The migrants, mainly Ethiopians, were in transit to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries seeking work.
Since the pandemic started, thousands have been helped by IOM. Migrants are also receiving psycho-social support to cope with the stress and anxiety caused by being stranded in Djibouti.
Moreover, the number of stranded migrants in Djibouti is rising. More than 200 arrived from Yemen just in the last few weeks.
Some made it as far as Yemen but were unable to continue and had to travel back to Djibouti. IOM is working with the Djibouti officials to assist these individuals.
So far this month over 400 migrants affected by COVID-19 have been provided with food, water, shelter, hygiene kits and other essential items in Djibouti’s capital, as well as in Obock, and in the towns of Tadjourah, Dikhil and Ali Sabieh, where other displaced migrants are staying.
In another aspect of IOM’s response to COVID-19, over 600 migrants living in government-led quarantine centres are being assisted.
Migrants in quarantine are provided with food and personal hygiene kits while being checked for symptoms of COVID-19.
IOM Djibouti’s Chief of Mission, Stéphanie Daviot, says “the migrants who are currently stranded in Djibouti are eager to return home and to reunite with their families after a failed attempt to reach the Gulf countries. We will continue to work hand in hand with the Government of Djibouti to provide life-saving assistance to these migrants.”