Death Toll Mounts as Search Continues for Survivors of Djibouti Boat Tragedy

Members of IOM’s Obock team rush to site of Red Sea tragedy to assist Djibouti authorities in search for survivors and victims of Tuesday’s drownings.  Photo. IOM

This story was updated on Friday at 15:00 (GMT +1)

Djibouti—International Organization for Migration (IOM) staff based in Obock, on Djibouti’s Red Sea coast, are reporting Wednesday that a total of 16 survivors have been recovered from Tuesday’s sea tragedy.

As of Friday afternoon, IOM’s team has learned that the remains of 58 victims have been recovered.

The tragedy occurred off Godoria, a locality in the Obock region of northeast Djibouti. After being alerted by local residents, a team of gendarmerie gathered near the reported site of the tragedy discovered two survivors yesterday, one an 18-year-old male survivor, who reportedly boarded one of two boats, in his case with some 130 people on board.

“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. “The government of Djibouti has always shown empathy and regional leadership on this critical issue. We will continue to support them to prevent such tragedies and protect migrant lives.”

IOM manages a Migrant Response Centre (MCR) in Obock, where hundreds of Yemen-bound migrants are assisted each year if they choose repatriation to their countries of origin under an IOM-operated voluntary return programme. There are currently more than 500 migrants at the MCR.

Staff there have been helping survivors of Tuesday’s tragedy and lending support to Djibouti authorities as they continue to patrol the shoreline in search of other survivors.

IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP), based in Berlin, released data today indicating there have been at least 199 drownings confirmed off the coast of Obock, Djibouti since 2014. MMP has records of three major shipwrecks of craft departing Obock, before yesterday’s tragedy. In 2014 one wreck was recorded in late February resulting 17 dead or missing; another in mid-November left 30 dead or missing. Two more tragedies in 2016—10 dead 5 October; another on 21 October left 14 dead—for a total of 71 deaths off Djibouti before yesterday’s shipwreck, which MMP estimates has resulted in at least 128 new deaths.

MMP also has recorded additional sea tragedies in the Horn of Africa-to-Yemen route that occurred further offshore from Obock itself. Missing migrant counts these additional deaths in the hundreds (see chart below).

Learn more about the Missing Migrants Project.

For more information please contact: Lalini Veerassamy at IOM Djibouti, Tel: +253 77 31 18 11 or Angela Wells at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 79 403 5365, Email: