Over 20,000 Migrants and Refugees Arrive in Horn of Africa from Yemen

Somalia - Conflict and a complex humanitarian emergency has forced some 20,000 vulnerable people to flee from Yemen to the Horn of Africa over the past two months. They include refugees from Somalia, migrant workers from third countries and Yemeni civilians.

No commercial flight has landed in or departed from Yemen since 26 March 2015, stranding thousands of people. Internal movement in Yemen is also difficult due to fuel shortages and checkpoints, reducing the options open to most vulnerable people stranded in the country.

During the five-day humanitarian pause between 12-17 May 2015, there was a flurry of activity as humanitarian agencies re-supplied their operations by boat and air. At the same time hundreds of people left the country by boat crossing the Red Sea to Djibouti and the Gulf of Aden to Somalia.

Many headed for Djibouti, given its close geographical proximity and historical ties with Yemen. Djibouti’s government has maintained an open door policy and almost 13,000 people have arrived in the country since March, primarily through the remote port of Obock and the capital, Djibouti City.

Of these, 13 per cent are Djibouti nationals returning home, 42 per cent are Yemenis, and 45 per cent are third country nationals (TCNs) en route to their country of origin.

“Our main challenge in Djibouti is accommodation at the Migration Response Center and in Djibouti City. The transit accommodation capacity at the Center in Obock is overstretched and all the hotels are full,” says IOM Djibouti Migration Officer Rosalinda Cottone.

“We are working as quickly as we can to assist migrants from Ethiopia and other countries to return home in order to free up space for new arrivals from Yemen,” she adds. 

“TCNs also face challenges of onward transportation, issuance of travel documents and transit accommodation, given the extremely limited supply. But IOM is doing everything it can to help,” she notes.

Options for Yemeni nationals arriving in Djibouti are even more limited. They are expected to stay in a newly established refugee camp in Obock while they wait for refugee status determination.

In Somalia, over 7,000 migrants and refugees have arrived from Yemen through various ports in Somaliland and Puntland. Over 5,000 arrived at the port of Bosasso and 2,000 at Berbera port. Of these, 90 per cent are Somali nationals. The others are TCNs, mainly from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Syria and the USA. IOM is working closely with the government, embassies and UN partners to respond to the influx.

“For many Ethiopians arriving in Somaliland, it can take up to one week or more for them to be issued with travel documents. During this time they need to be supported with food and accommodation. We are trying to speed up this process to help the Ethiopians, in particular,” says IOM Somaliland Operations Assistant Dayib Askar.

For more information, please contact IOM Somalia. Craig Murphy, Tel: +254 717 711 822, Email: or Feisal Mohamud, Tel: +252 616 967 435 or +254 721 290074, Email: