body-container-line-1

Shipwreck off Djibouti leaves 38 migrants dead

By Aymeric VINCENOT - AFP
Africa Map of Djibouti.  By Nalini LEPETIT-CHELLA, Herv BOUILLY AFP
TUE, 09 APR 2024 LISTEN
Map of Djibouti. By Nalini LEPETIT-CHELLA, Hervé BOUILLY (AFP)

The bodies of 38 migrants, including children, have been recovered after a shipwreck off the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, the UN said Tuesday, the latest disaster on the so-called Eastern migration route.

The UN's International Organization for Migration told AFP that the boat was carrying 66 people when it sank in the early hours of Monday.

The tragedy took place just 200 metres (yards) off the coast of Godoria in the northeast of Djibouti, the agency said in an email to AFP.

"Thirty-eight bodies have been recovered. 22 survivors are being assisted by IOM and local authorities," IOM regional spokesperson Yvonne Ngede said.

She said those on the boat included women, children and babies and that most of them were believed to be Ethiopian nationals.

In a post on X accompanied by a picture of white body bags lined up on a beach, the IOM said at least six other people were missing and presumed dead after the "tragic shipwreck".

The Ethiopian embassy in Djibouti said the accident involved a boat carrying around 60 Ethiopian migrants from Djibouti to war-torn Yemen.

Each year, many tens of thousands of African migrants brave the perilous "Eastern Route" across the Red Sea and through war-scarred Yemen to reach Saudi Arabia, escaping conflict, or natural disaster or seeking better economic opportunities.

"On their journeys, many face life-threatening dangers including starvation, health risks and exploitation -- at the hands of human traffickers and other criminals," the IOM said in a statement in February.

'Putting themselves in grave danger'

Africa's second most populous country, Ethiopia is blighted by various conflicts and several regions have suffered from severe drought in recent years.

More than 15 percent of its some 120 million inhabitants depend on food aid.

The Ethiopian embassy in Djibouti said that in the last five years, 189 of its citizens making the journey had lost their lives in boat accidents alone.

"Our citizens are putting themselves and their families in grave danger," the embassy said.

People should not be "deceived" by human traffickers, it said, calling for the judiciary to take action against them.

In February, the IOM said that according to its Missing Migrants Project at least 698 people, including women and children, had died crossing the Gulf of Aden from Djibouti to Yemen last year.

"This number could be higher considering some tragedies often go unnoticed," it said.

In November 2023, a shipwreck off the shores of Yemen left 64 migrants missing, presumed dead at sea, the agency added.

Ngede said that the migrants on the Eastern Route are mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia trying to reach Gulf nations, in particular Saudi Arabia.

"Many of them reach the border with KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) but don't make it across. Thousands are stuck in Yemen."

In August last year, Human Rights Watch accused Saudi border guards of killing "at least hundreds" of Ethiopians trying to cross into the Gulf kingdom from Yemen between March 2022 and June 2023, using explosive weapons in some cases.

Riyadh dismissed the group's findings as "unfounded and not based on reliable sources".

In its report, HRW referred to testimony from migrants who said Huthi forces worked with people smugglers and would "extort" them or keep them in detention centres where they were "abused" until they could pay an "exit fee" and head to the border.

body-container-line