At least sixteen migrants were killed and twenty-eight others are missing after their boat sank off the coast of Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa (east of the continent), announced Tuesday, April 23, the International Organization for Migration (IOM). “Search and rescue operations by local authorities and the IOM are underway,” the UN organization said on X, specifying that 77 migrants were on board the boat, “including at least one child.” The IOM does not specify whether the latter is one of those who could have been rescued.

This is the second shipwreck reported by the IOM off the coast of Djibouti in a few weeks, after another on April 8, in which at least thirty-eight migrants, including children, died. The “eastern route”, used by migrants coming from the Horn of Africa to reach Saudi Arabia via war-torn Yemen, is considered by the agency to be “one of the most dangerous migration routes and the most complex in Africa and the world”.

On April 8, the IOM estimated that at least 698 people, including women and children, died along the “eastern route” in 2023, but “this figure could be higher as some tragedies often go unnoticed.” In November 2023, sixty-four migrants disappeared, presumed dead at sea, during a shipwreck off the coast of Yemen, recalls the IOM.

In addition to shipwrecks, migrants are confronted along the way with “starvation, health risks, traffickers and other criminals”, and lack “medical care, food, water, shelter”, underlines the ‘organization. According to the IOM, Ethiopians represent 79% of the approximately 100,000 migrants arriving in Yemen in 2023 from the coasts of Djibouti or Somalia, with the remainder being Somalis. Most of them cite economic reasons for their departure, but some also highlight violence or climatic disasters in Ethiopia.