24 Migrants Dead in New Shipwreck off Djibouti Coast; Second Deadly Incident in Two Weeks

Migrants sleep underneath a boat on the beach in Obock, Djibouti. Photo: IOM 2021/Alexander Bee

Geneva/ Djibouti, 24 April – At least 24 migrants have died and 20 others are missing after a boat they were travelling in capsized off the coast of Djibouti. On 22 April, a boat carrying at least 77 migrants, including children, departed from Ras al-Ara off Yemen’s coast. It capsized near the coastal town of Obock.  

Thirty-three migrants who were aboard survived the accident and are currently receiving medical care, food, shelter, and psychosocial support at the International Organization for Migration's (IOM) Migrant Response Centre in Obock. Local authorities are conducting search and rescue operations in the hope of finding more survivors. The accident follows a similar tragedy in the same area reported two weeks ago where at least 38 migrants perished.  

“The occurrence of two such tragedies within a span of two weeks highlights the dangers faced by children, women, and men migrating through irregular routes, underscoring the importance of establishing safe and legal pathways for migration,” said Tanja Pacifico, IOM Chief of Mission in Djibouti.   

In both incidents, it is believed that the migrants were attempting to return from Yemen to Djibouti after failing to reach the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where they hoped to find work and better opportunities.  

Every year, tens of thousands of migrants from the Horn of Africa, in particular Ethiopia and Somalia, depart the continent through Djibouti in pursuit of reaching Saudi Arabia and the Gulf nations. However, many are unsuccessful. Thousands are stranded in Yemen where they experience extremely harsh conditions.  

“We must work to prevent as much as possible those circumstances where migrants' safety and well-being are threatened and ensure that migrants are able to maintain contact with their families,” she added. “IOM, as Coordinator of the UN Network on Migration, is actively working on actionable recommendations for providing humanitarian assistance to migrants in distress and addressing the plight of missing migrants and their families.”   

Since the start of 2024, IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) reports that a total of 3,682 migrants have departed Yemen to reach Djibouti, surpassing last year's figure for the same period by more than double. This sharp increase is due to the immense challenges and difficulties in Yemen and in reaching the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  

In 2023, despite the life-threatening risks involved, IOM's DTM documented approximately 380,000 movements along the Eastern Corridor from the Horn of Africa to countries in the Arab Peninsula. At least 1,350 lives have been lost – and many more go unreported.  

IOM Djibouti is working with and supporting Djiboutian authorities to prevent more tragedies and deaths along this route, both at sea and on land. Together with 48 other humanitarian and development organizations and governments, IOM coordinates the Regional Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Southern Africa (MRP) to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs of migrants along the Eastern Route. Although MRP partners appealed for USD 112 million, the appeal remains severely underfunded.  


For more information please contact: 


In Djibouti: Laëtitia Romain, 

In Nairobi: Yvonne Ndege, 

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