Djibouti, May 23, 2022 – “In the blink of an eye, our lives were turned upside down and our dreams shattered.”
Tigistou Charo, a 16-year-old Ethiopian migrant, survived a horrific road accident in Djibouti despite being left for dead by smugglers transporting him through the country.
Although he miraculously survived the ordeal, several other migrants involved in the crash were not so lucky. With tears in his eyes, Tigistou remembers: “I was ejected from the vehicle under the impact and three of our compatriots were declared dead on the spot. Others were seriously injured. »
On May 3, 2022, led by smugglers, a group of 50 Ethiopian migrants piled into a minibus with a maximum capacity of only 25 people. They departed from Tadjourah, a coastal town in northern Djibouti, a key transit point for migrants from Ethiopia trying to reach Obock to catch a boat to Yemen.
The minibus was traveling at high speed to avoid police checks, which are frequent in the region. After traveling for over an hour, the minibus veered off the road and hit rocks and bushes.
The smugglers and the driver immediately fled on foot, having taken what little money the migrants had for the journey while abandoning them at their most vulnerable moment. Half an hour later, another car of smugglers arrived to collect the bodies of the deceased.
Accidents like this are a common experience for migrants traveling along the “Eastern Route”, the main migration route linking the Horn of Africa to the Gulf countries.
Every year, tens of thousands of migrants leave countries like Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti for the Gulf States in search of work to escape poverty, the effects of climate change and conflict. They undertake dangerous journeys by land and sea across the Horn of Africa, across the Gulf of Aden to conflict-affected Yemen.
Many migrants, including unaccompanied children, fall victim to attackers, traffickers and smugglers, who often abandon them in the desert without food or water, or sometimes throw them overboard while crossing the sea; some die along the way due to dehydration. Extortion, sexual violence and death are all too common risks.
Janabou, a 35-year-old migrant who also survived the accident, was forced to witness the pain of his comrades. “While waiting for help, we managed to stay alive with the means at hand. Left to our own devices, we used pieces of cloth to stop our bleeding.
Determined to reach their destination, a group of survivors continued on foot to Obock.
A few hours later, a police car followed by two ambulances arrived at the scene of the accident.
The injured received first aid before being evacuated by the Djibouti Coast Guard to Djibouti City. Once in Djibouti City, they received further medical attention. In the days following the accident, Ethiopian communities mobilized to help the survivors. Ten of them, slightly injured, have been accommodated at the Ethiopian Community Association in Djibouti where they continue to receive emergency assistance from IOM.
“Beyond the physical injuries sustained, the majority of these young migrants – many of whom are attempting this journey for the first time – also suffer mental trauma as they begin to process the harsh realities they now face. This is compounded by their anguish as they reflect on their families and communities they left behind,” observed Dr. Youssouf from the IOM Medical Office in Djibouti, which provided medical assistance.
For Hawat Mangassa, a 16-year-old survivor of the accident, there is only one option: to return home as soon as possible. She mourns the loss of life and fears the dangers faced by people like her who embark on irregular migration journeys. Hawat emphasizes that above all, they are simply human beings in search of a better and more secure future.
IOM regularly organizes awareness-raising activities on the dangers and risks of irregular migration among migrants, local authorities and host communities. In Djibouti, this includes group discussions between local communities and migrants, and gatherings organized for cultural and religious celebrations.
“IOM Djibouti will continue to support local authorities and strengthen their operational capacity so that they can better respond to migration challenges in the region. We will continue to inform migrants about the risks they may face while migrating and support those returning to their country of origin,” said Giulia Ravassard of IOM’s Protection Office in Djibouti.
IOM Djibouti provides food, water, medical care and voluntary return assistance to migrants returning from the Arabian Peninsula. Over 8,800 migrants received voluntary return assistance between 2018 and 2021, while last year nearly 6,000 migrants received emergency assistance through IOM’s Mobile Unit.
In the East and Horn of Africa region, IOM and its partners are working to combat transnational organized crime, responsible for much of the migrant smuggling that occurs along the Eastern Route, and to provide real alternatives to irregular migration by promoting livelihoods and establishing regular migration pathways. in the region through the establishment of bilateral labor migration agreements.
According to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, more than 47,000 people worldwide have died or gone missing during migration since 2014, including more than 1,000 recorded deaths and disappearances in the East and Horn of Africa. Vehicle accidents or dangerous transport on migration routes are responsible for almost 4,000 of these deaths worldwide, including around 200 in East Africa – many are likely undocumented.
The deteriorating economic situation and the increased vulnerability of migrants traveling along the Eastern Route have exacerbated already significant needs. Without adequate funding in 2022, IOM will not be able to continue to provide lifesaving and protection assistance, including safe and voluntary humanitarian return and reintegration of migrants stranded in the region.
For more information, contact Stéphanie Daviot, IOM Djibouti Chief of Mission, Email: [email protected]Tel: + 253 21 34 21 44 / +253 21 32 04 50