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- Equatorial Guinea
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Wednesday, February 26, 2020
From Ethiopia to Arabia
160,000 people – almost all Ethiopians – travel the perilous, 1200-kilometer route from destitute provinces in their home country to the Republic of Djibouti.
From there, if they can find the money to pay smugglers, they are taken across the narrow Bab Al Mandeb Strait, or through the Gulf of Aden, into war-torn Yemen.
There, at the mercy of human traffickers who may kidnap, rape and extort more money – from them and from their relatives back home – they head north to the Saudi Arabian border.
After crossing minefields and deadly killing grounds, they may make it into the kingdom, where traffickers may also continue to exploit them – and where the Saudi police try to hunt them down for forcible deportation. Of the forced repatriation of undocumented immigrants in recent times, the IOM estimates about 340,000 Ethiopians deported this way since 2017. Despite the horror, many who are deported back to Ethiopia subsequently try again.
Yet they may also, if they are very lucky, find their goal: a low paid job in the unregistered economy.
“About 10,000 people move through Djibouti this way every month heading for Arabia, and the figures are continuing to climb,” says Olivia Akumu, Regional Coordinator for East Africa with the Mixed Migration Center in Nairobi. We always hear about migrants in the Mediterranean but the truth is, the biggest numbers of migrants we have are these people, trying to get into Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.”
According to the World Bank, Ethiopia's per capita annual income in 2018 was only US$772.31, or about $2 a day.
“Almost all of the migrants recently have been moving for economic reasons,” says Yvonne Ndege, spokesperson for the International Organization of Migration.