Illegal migration is now back to pre-pandemic levels, with Djiboutian authorities rescuing 383 undocumented Ethiopian migrants whose boat was at risk of capsizing in the Gulf of Aden in the past week alone, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.
The rise in immigration around the world is being driven by the impact of climate change as well as conflict and loss of livelihoods, says the UN migration agency.
It reports that last year there were 150,000 crossings along the “eastern route” – through Yemen and into Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
But many die along the way. Many get stranded in war-torn Yemen and attempt to return to the coast of the Horn of Africa.
“I can’t give you [an exact] figure because lots of lives are lost without us even taking a record but definitely it’s one of the most dangerous and deadly routes in the world,” IOM director Antonio Vitorino told the BBC.
He says many set off on the perilous journeys, attracted by the “illusion” of a better life abroad but are oblivious to the dangers that lie along the way.
“Many of them don’t even know that there is a war in Yemen,” Mr Vitorino said.
He called for the opening up of legal and regular pathways for migration to reduce the pressure for migrants to look for risky routes.
“There’s need to be effective in identifying and prosecuting the criminal networks that violate the most basic human rights of the migrants by smuggling and trafficking,” he said.
He added that this calls for effective border controls and co-operation among law enforcement, as well as addressing the root causes of migration in the first place.