Staff from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Monday assisted Djiboutian authorities as they attended to the grim task of recovering and burying eight drowning victims whose remains washed ashore after a lethal journey from Yemen over the weekend.
According to IOM, the victims, from a total of 34 mainly Ethiopian and Somali migrants seeking to return to Africa after attempting to find work in the Arabian Gulf make even more tragic a recent wave of Africans arriving in Djibouti.
"It was at night and the smugglers turned off all the lights on the boat, claiming we were being followed the Coast Guard. But they were lying," 19-year-old survivor Galgalou Haji Wacho from Oromo, Ethiopia, told IOM. "There was no Coast Guard. They started hitting us with sticks and iron bars."
Haji Wacho said he was in the water for nearly two hours, struggling to make out the coastline ahead. "I could not see anything," he recalled. "It was pitch black. I did not know whether I was dead or alive."
He and twenty-five others, some of whom suffered injuries, today are receiving medical treatment at IOM's Migrant Response Centre in Obock.
While thousands of African migrants remain stranded in Yemen, authorities fear some of those may be waiting for a chance to re-cross the dangerous waters many already braved to get to the Arabian Gulf just months ago, thus, the prospect grows of more fatalities in the coming weeks and days, IOM said.
Said Stephanie Daviot, Chief of Mission, IOM Djibouti said migrants are arriving in Djibouti in large numbers from Yemen.
"This tragedy is a wake-up call. Regional governments and the international community must come together to address a situation of dangerous journeys facing migrants in the region since the outbreak of COVID-19."
The tragedy follows the arrival of some 2,678 migrants from Yemen into Djibouti since July, according to IOM data.
Others who have arrived here in recent weeks, most are trying to return to Ethiopia and other nations after having failed to reach the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia despite managing to leave Africa for Yemen.