New Funding Helps IOM Coordinate Support to Vulnerable Migrants in the Horn of Africa and Yemen

Jamal* is part of a large group of 265 migrants ready to board a chartered Yemenia flight to Addis Ababa, supported by IOM Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) flights. Photo: Eva Sibanda/IOM 2023 

Nairobi, Kenya – Over 7 million USD has been provided to assist thousands of migrants in vulnerable situations and host communities in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen. The funding is designed to respond to the needs of migrants on the ‘Eastern Route’ which runs from these countries in the Horn of Africa, and Yemen, towards the Gulf nations. The funding comes from the US Governments’ Department Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). 

The funding will be disbursed through the 2023 Regional Migrant Response Plan (MRP) for the Horn of Africa and Yemen. 5 million USD will go towards supporting voluntary humanitarian returns and support for vulnerable women and various humanitarian activities. The remaining $2.4 million will go towards supporting the continuation of lifesaving services at Migration Response Centres (MRCs) along the route.

Every year, tens of thousands of young men, women, and unaccompanied children undergo dangerous journeys from the Horn of Africa towards to the Gulf to escape, poverty, unemployment, and the impact of climate change, in search of better life and job opportunities in the Gulf. They must pass through conflict-affected Yemen to reach the Gulf. Since the start of 2023 end of over 86,000 migrants arrived on the shores of Yemen. This eclipses significantly the 72,300 who arrived Yemen in 2022. In Yemen, migrants often find themselves in deplorable conditions, exploited by traffickers to carry out forced labour and other forms of exploitation. Migrants have testified that when they realize that they may not reach their destination, usually due to a lack of money to pay, many choose to return home but can’t, due to lack of funds.

Since January 2023 IOM has recorded over 153,000 migrants leaving Ethiopia (IOM, 2023), on the Eastern Route, averaging over 20,000 people per month. This is a 32 per cent increase from 2022. Since the start of the year, over 71,000 migrants reached Djibouti via Ethiopia, averaging nearly 12,000 people entering per month (IOM, 2023). This is a 12 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2022. Migrants also utilize routes through Somalia, become stranded in Djibouti and Somalia, or travel through routes in Djibouti or Somalia that bypass flow monitoring, which account for the difference between the number of migrants departing from Ethiopia and the number of migrant entries into Djibouti.

With the new funding migrants and affected groups will be assisted with lifesaving humanitarian assistance and support and returning home. Nearly 6,000 migrants have been assisted so far this year to return home from Yemen. IOM seeks to support such migrants through Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) flights. But the needs far outweigh the ability to responds due to funding shortfalls.

Migrants traverse extreme terrain when they reach Djibouti, with climactic temperatures reaching as high as 50 Degrees Celsius in summer months. Migrants in Djibouti are vulnerable to smugglers and human traffickers.

Migrants often report suffering from sexual violence at the hands of traffickers, physical abuse to pay fees, extortion, and/or withholding of identity documents. It is common practice for traffickers to hold migrants for ransom for their families to pay. Beyond transiting through Djibouti, boat trips from Djibouti to Yemen across the Red Sea are also treacherous in terms of adverse conditions at sea and boats capsizing a regular occurrence.

In Djibouti, the new funding will ensure the continuation of critical services at the Migration Response Centres (MRCs). These MRCs provide life-saving humanitarian assistance and protection interventions to thousands of migrant men, women, boys, and girls in vulnerable situations. Humanitarian assistance includes but is not limited to water, food, shelter, medical assistance, and non-food items. Protection interventions include best-interest procedures for children at risk, family tracing, mental health and psychosocial support, safe houses for survivors at risk of further exploitation or harassment from smugglers, and specialized services for gender-based violence survivors.

Migrants are also stranded along the Eastern Route and often run out of financial resources to continue onwards. Either they are waiting for onward transportation to be arranged by smugglers or are prevented from continuing due to contextual changes such as conflict. Somalia is one of the countries where migrants are in need. As of June 2023, an estimated 5,400 migrants were stranded in the country this year (IOM, 2023).

Due to financial resources, stranded migrants in Yemen and those transiting through Djibouti often do not have formal accommodation and face risks of being detained by border authorities or being trafficked by smugglers. In addition, stranded migrants often lack formal documentation and resort to informal employment to save enough money to continue their journey. Collectively, stranded migrants remain extremely vulnerable to protection risks, unable to return to their place of origin or continue their journey.

“IOM appreciates the support from the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), the humanitarian bureau of the State Department for the United States of America. This funding comes at a crucial time when abuses toward migrants in Yemen have intensified. It is important that support is continued, at a time when we are recording increasing numbers of women and girls traveling along the Eastern Route,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa.

IOM coordinates the MRP framework, a response mechanism that brings 48 humanitarian and development partners together to respond to and address the needs of migrants and host communities along the Eastern migration corridor. This generous funding supports the continuation and amplification of the assistance provided to migrants and host communities along the Eastern Route. With continued funding, the MRP can address unmet needs, which include direct humanitarian and development initiatives, including life-saving assistance and protection interventions, post-arrival and reception support, and the Integrated Approach to Return and Reintegration as reintegration support can only be successful if there is a level of re-inclusion across all economic, social and psychosocial dimensions at the individual, community and structural levels.

Despite the new funding the needs of migrants and host communities remain significant. Over $70 million is still needed to meet the appeal for $84 million launched in February 2023. Only 13% of the appeal funds have been met.

The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) is the humanitarian bureau of the State Department of the United States of America. PRM is committed to supporting migrants and host communities under the MRP for the Horn of Africa and Yemen. 

For more information, please contact IOM Communications Officer (Regional Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa and Yemen) Eva Sibanda on, Phone: +254795424202 

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