Report Provides Clearer Picture on Irregular Migration From Ethiopia to Yemen
An IOM research aimed at gauging levels of human trafficking among
Ethiopian migrants attempting to reach the Gulf countries via
Somalia, has shed valuable light on smugglers and routes on a
practice that is costing hundreds of lives each year.
Tens of thousands of Ethiopians and Somalis use the port of
Bossasso in Somalia's Puntland on an annual basis as a departure
point for irregular migration to the Gulf countries via Yemen with
many falling victim to the dangerous sea crossing and unscrupulous
and ruthless practices of smugglers.
The report, based on interviews carried out with a group of the
most vulnerable Ethiopian migrants stranded in Bossasso in November
2006, found that although there was little information available
regarding human trafficking, there was enough to indicate a
well-organized smuggling network that ran from the Ethiopian
capital, Addis Ababa to Bossasso en route to Yemen.
Although the majority of Ethiopian migrants making the journey
to Bossasso were young single men from the northeast of the country
with little or no education, there were also women and some girls
as young as 14-16 years of age. Naïve and vulnerable, the
migrants had little to no awareness of the dangers of the journey
on which they embarked.
The migrants interviewed recounted horrible tales of thirst,
hunger, exhaustion and attacks by Somali bandits as well as robbery
and physical abuse along the journey from Addis to Bossasso, where
they had all been arrested by Puntland authorities.
The migrants, who have had to borrow anything between USD
115-800 to pay for their journey repeatedly spoke of individual
'brokers' established at various points. They said the brokers
swindled or robbed them, stripped searched and attacked them by
threatening to set fire to them if they didn't agree to pay for
services they had no ability to provide such as the boat journey
from Bossasso to Yemen.
With information gleaned from the interviews, IOM has
established a predominant smuggling route from the Ethiopian
capital which took the migrants through the eastern cities of Harar
and Hartishiek and then to the Somali town of Burao. After that,
migrants were often abandoned in the desert to make their own way
on foot to Bossasso, a journey which could take them anywhere
between five to 21 days.
By the time the migrants had reached the desert stage of the
journey, they were usually left without any money, food, water or
identity papers. They survived usually through the kindness of
locals or by doing menial jobs. Upon arriving in Bossasso, they
would have to ask families back home to wire them the money to pay
for the boat journey to Yemen, which further increased their
"Although the migrants may not realise it or think it, they were
lucky in the end not to have done the sea journey to Yemen as they
were arrested just beforehand. It is probably the most dangerous
part of the trip," says IOM's Yitna Getachew, who wrote the report.
About 330 people died last year making the sea journey and another
300 more went missing. Nearly 140 have died so far in 2007,
according to UNHCR, with many missing.
Most of the migrants interviewed were poor farmers trying to
reach the Gulf in search of work as shepherds or housemaids lured
by the apparent success of fellow villagers returning from the
In a bid to tackle the issue, IOM will be raising awareness of
the dangers of irregular migration and on protecting migrant rights
in Bossasso itself. The Organization will also carry out prevention
activities such as awareness raising in Ethiopia and potentially
Somalia on what is happening to migrants attempting to reach
Yemen. IOM has also provided migrants stranded in the Somali port
town who wanted to return home, assisted voluntary return
assistance and health checks.
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