Horn of Africa, Gulf Countries Affirm Dignity, Human Rights of Migrants at Conference in Djibouti

Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies, led discussions at the conference on Wednesday (05/12). Photo: IOM/Angela Wells

Carmela Godeau, IOM Regional Director of Middle East and North Africa, moderated the panel Sustainable Reintegration of Migrants and Addressing Drivers. Photo: IOM/Leonard Doyle 

Djibouti City – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) co-hosted a conference of seven nations in Djibouti this week to strengthen the humanitarian response to migrants in the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Gulf countries on the eve of UN-sponsored peace talks between warring factions in Yemen.

The Drawing on Peace Dividends in the Horn of Africa to Ensure Urgent Enhancements in the Management of Migratory Flows to Yemen and the Gulf Countries conference was organized Wednesday in partnership with the Government of Djibouti and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre.

The conference encouraged stronger cooperation between governments and partners in the protection of and humanitarian response to migrants travelling through the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries, particularly Yemen.

The day-long event preceded the commencement of peace talks on Thursday in Sweden aimed at ending the civil war in Yemen that began nearly four years ago.

IOM estimates that nearly 150,000 people will reach Yemen in 2018, one of the most traversed and youthful maritime routes in the world, with children constituting 20 per cent of Yemen’s migrant population.

Delegates from seven countries (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen and Somalia) offered valuable contributions to discussions on the challenges facing their countries in protecting and responding to migration.

Opening the dialogue, chairman of the meeting Hassan Omar Mohammad Bourhan, Djibouti’s Minister of Interior, urged countries in the two regions to “put in place local policies to ensure the protection and respect of the human rights of migrants, especially for the large number of unaccompanied minors in need of protection and special assistance”.

Similarly, in prepared video remarks, IOM’s Director General António Vitorino said, “You have come together to find concrete ways to protect all those who cross your borders, regardless of their migratory status or nationality. Safe and legal pathways for migration will ultimately prove beneficial to all.”

During the meeting, IOM Regional Directors and Chiefs of Mission outlined the complex issues facing migrants and their missions, including: protection programming and assistance for migrants; sustainable reintegration of returnees; health interventions and contingency planning; long-term solutions such as legal pathways and, awareness-raising campaigns and migration management.  

Interventions were also made by the European Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, UNICEF, the UN Refugee Agency, and the UN Development Programme on behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator.

In the final session, delegates and humanitarian actors agreed to pursue key practical solutions to address the humanitarian needs of migrants by:

  • enhancing safe, dignified and voluntary return and sustainable reintegration;
  • ensuring humanitarian access through the respect of humanitarian law;
  • holding smugglers and human traffickers accountable for abuses inflicted on migrants;
  • investing in long-term development and awareness-raising initiatives to address root causes of irregular migration;
  • providing migrant health interventions and enacting water, sanitation and hygiene measures to prevent and address outbreaks; and
  • continuing to exchange information and best practices on migration management, among others.

These and other priority actions are also highlighted in the Regional Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa and Yemen, a strategy led by IOM and other partners to address humanitarian and development needs tailored to this migration corridor.

DG Vitorino reminded the delegates, “IOM remains committed to supporting your efforts to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. We will work with you to continue to facilitate voluntary humanitarian returns for stranded migrants; assist those in destitute circumstances; prevent and treat their health needs and provide dignified and sustainable opportunities for migrants who return home.”

He thanked the governments of Denmark, the European Union, Germany, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and many others who support IOM’s humanitarian response to migrants in Yemen and the Regional Response Plan.

For more information, please contact Angela Wells at IOM Headquarters in Geneva, Tel: +41 7940 35365, Email: