The trip from Africa to Yemen remains the most frequented maritime migration route in the world, according to the UN, which reported 138,000 migrants and refugees who entered this country in 2019, despite the war there. On average, 11,500 people embarked on ships connecting the Horn of Africa to Yemen in 2019, according to the IOM (International Organization for Migration) quoted in a press release from the office of the UN spokesperson.
In comparison, more than 110,000 migrants and refugees crossed the Mediterranean to Europe during the same period. It is the second consecutive year that the so-called Eastern route has recorded more crossings than the Mediterranean.
In 2018, around 150,000 people made the trip. “While the tragedies along the Mediterranean roads are well known, our staff testify daily to the abuse suffered by young people in the Horn of Africa at the hands of smugglers and traffickers who exploit their hopes for a better life”, a said IOM Regional Director for the Horn of Africa, Mohammed Abdiker.
According to the UN Agency for Migration, nearly 90% of those who arrived in Yemen in 2019 intended to continue their journey to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Often from rural Oromia, Amhara and Tigray, more than 90% of the people making the trip were Ethiopian nationals.
Not only has migration on the eastern route been reduced by five years of conflict in Yemen, but migrants do not seem to be deterred by the Gulf States’ strict immigration policies for undocumented migrants. Most travel in search of inaccessible economic opportunities at home, while others flee insecurity, human rights abuses, and difficult living conditions.