Workshop On Dead Body Management And Missing Migrants Takes Place In Aftermath of Djibouti Shipwreck
Djibouti - Against the backdrop of the deaths of 33 migrants in a shipwreck off the coast of Djibouti last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) hosted from 21-23 August the first regional workshop on dead body management and missing migrants in the country. Sixty migrants were on board the vessel when it sunk late at night on the Gulf of Aden, on August 17. Only 27 people survived.
At the workshop, forensic authorities and international practitioners gathered to discuss methods for the identification of human remains and family tracing, and enhance understanding on collecting, managing, and sharing data on missing migrants. Last week’s tragedy was not the first on this crossing between the Horn of Africa and Yemen. Since 2014, at least 1,956 migrants have lost their lives in shipwrecks on the sea crossing according to the Missing Migrants Project (MMP). In most instances, bodies are never recovered, and bodies that are found are hard to identify and manage.
Tsegaye* is a young man from Ethiopia who survived the shipwreck. “The sea was frightening, it was huge, the waves were violent. It was windy and cold,” he told IOM staff. “We stayed all night on Wednesday and all day on Thursday clinging to the boat, which turned over. I thought it was over and we were all going to die, but we had no choice but to trust in God.”
Tsegaye is receiving treatment for his injuries and psycho-social support from IOM.
At the workshop participants discussed identification, autopsy protocols, and psychological support for migrants in distress. When IOM encounters fatalities like that of last week, it coordinates with local authorities to identify the human remains, ensure the burial of the bodies, and inform their families.
“This workshop is timely, particularly in light of last week’s tragedy. We hope it will support the capacity of frontline officials and service providers to share information about migrant deaths and injuries and raise awareness among local communities who provide first-hand support to migrants in need as well as shed light on the critical role of first responders,” said Tanja Pacifico, IOM Djibouti Chief of Mission.
“In the face of rising migratory challenges, and with the support from IOM, Djibouti remains dedicated to strengthening our health services for migrants,” said Dr. Ahmed Robleh Abdilleh, Minister of Health, Djibouti. “We believe this workshop will yield relevant and realistic recommendations to properly manage the mortal remains of migrants and prevent further loss of life on this route.”
IOM teams are on the ground with the national and local government providing family tracing and reunification services for survivors of the shipwreck, as well as assessing travel options for those who wish to return home. IOM Djibouti also operates a mobile search and rescue unit in the Obock and Tadjourah regions to assist migrants who cannot continue their journey due to dehydration and fatigue.
The workshop is hosted under the auspices of the Migrant Response Plan (MRP) for the Horn of Africa and Yemen 2023, and the support of the Africa Regional Migration Program (ARMP) funded by the United States’ Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). IOM’s humanitarian assistance and protection services are aligned with and supported by the MRP, which aims to address the needs of migrants in vulnerable situations and host communities in countries situated along the Eastern Route.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the survivor.
For more information please contact:
Jorge Galindo, IOM GDI, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yvonne Ndege, IOM Regional Office of East and Horn of Africa, Email: email@example.com