Dozens dead as migrant boats sink off Djibouti

Two boats carrying migrants from Djibouti to Yemen have sunk in the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb killing at least 58 people, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on 1 February.

The tragedy occurred off Godoria, a locality in the Obock region of northeast Djibouti. According to local witnesses, the boats capsized roughly 30 minutes after leaving due to overcrowding and heavy swells, IOM said in a statement.  

The sinking of the two boats, which are believed to have been carrying dozens Ethiopian migrants on their way to the Arabian Peninsula, is the latest tragedy in a migratory trend that has been picking up since 2014.

IOM reports that there have been at least 199 deaths confirmed off the coast of Obock, Djibouti since 2014 and three major shipwrecks before yesterday’s tragedy.

“This tragic event demonstrates the risks that vulnerable migrants face as they innocently search for better lives,” said IOM Djibouti Chief of Mission Lalini Veerassamy.

Speaking to AFP, 15-year-old survivor Id Mohamed said he was loaded onto a boat together with about 80 other Ethiopians.

“All that I remember is that the captain said the motor had a serious problem and the boat is going to sink. After that, I don’t know what happened,” he said.

“This is the worst thing I’ve been through in my entire life, even though I wasn’t in the sea long. I thank God for saving me,” he said.

“These migrants dream of a better life for themselves and their families, they seek work, security and new opportunities, and most are too young to understand the difficulties ahead,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies, during a migration conference in Djibouti in early December.

“Instead, they face risk and abuse on the way, including human trafficking. Most who make it to Yemen then find themselves stuck in a conflict, exposed to further violence and danger.”

The Bab el-Mandeb strait, located on the southern tip of the Red Sea between Eritrea and Djibouti on the African side and Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, has become the major crossing point for tens of thousands of migrants escaping poverty and conflict in Ethiopia and Somalia. The predominantly Ethiopian migrants on the route cross paths with Yemenis fleeing conflict to the Horn of Africa.

Many of the 150,000 migrants who are estimated to have reached Yemen’s shores in 2018 have become targets for human traffickers, caught up in violence from the conflict or locked up in poorly maintained detention centres, IOM reports.

TMP – 05/02/2019

Photo caption: Fishing and cargo ships which are used for transportation between Yemen and Djibouti.

Photo Credit: Vladimir Melnik/Shutterstock

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