Last year, more migrants arrived in Yemen, a country in civil war, than by sea in Europe, UN Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ursula Mueller said on a visit to neighboring Djibouti on Saturday.
“It's 40 degrees and the sun is burning, and they have no water and they are walking through the desert. It's very hard and many can't make it, ”said Ursula Mueller, in a telephone interview with the Spanish agency EFE, from Djibouti, the country she visited this week and witnessed this lesser-known migration route.
Between 300 and 600 migrants, mainly Ethiopians, arrive daily in Djibouti, strategically located at the access to the Red Sea, and then try to reach Saudi Arabia, on a “perilous voyage” that forces them to survive a boat trip – during which time. many die from asphyxiation – and subsequently across Yemen.
"There are more migrants going to the Arabian Peninsula than to Europe," said the undersecretary.
She explained that the migratory theme is complex and full of various motivations, and there are political reasons why this route is not as well known as the Mediterranean.
"There is pressure not to make this topic public," he said.
In 2018, a total of 150,000 migrants arrived in Yemen, mostly from Ethiopia, according to Mueller data.
By comparison, combined with sea arrivals to Italy, Malta, Cyprus, Spain and Greece and land arrivals to the latter two countries by 2018, according to data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the total is lower – 141,472.
Data for 2019 follow the same line, as in the first six months of the year 84,000 migratory movements to Yemen were recorded, while arrivals to Europe between January and September (inclusive) were 78,826.
Mueller visited Djibouti to assess the impact of the climate crisis on this Horn of Africa country, one of the countries most affected by climate change and drought, with temperatures that sometimes reach 50 degrees.
Despite these conditions, 45% of migrants cross the country on foot.
According to the official, most of them travel for economic reasons.
"They don't find opportunities in Ethiopia and there are networks that tell them there are opportunities (in Saudi Arabia), but they don't tell them it's a dangerous trip and that many people die along the way," he added, noting that "Yemen is not, right away, the desired destination ”.
In Yemen, at a peak of immigrant arrivals prior to the celebration of Ramadan between April 27 and May 3 this year, more than 5,000 people were detained and concentrated in two football stadiums and a military camp, which was considered a first step into the dreaded detention camps of countries like Libya.
Those who made it to Saudi Arabia also face mass deportations, and this year alone the authorities of Saudi Arabia returned at least 57,843 Ethiopians to their home country.
Djibouti, a small and stable country in a conflict zone, already has about 100,000 permanent migrants in addition to those who cross it daily, so one in 10 people is foreign, Mueller said.
It has also recognized 30,000 refugees or asylum seekers, to whom it gives the same rights as Djiboutians in access to health and education.
However, it is a country affected by the climate emergency and drought, so one third of its population is food insecure, with the resulting “rising disease rates and malnutrition rates,” Mueller said.
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