Where is the Eastern Route?

Where is the Eastern Route

Where is the Eastern Route?

The ‘Eastern Route’ is one of the busiest, most complex, and dangerous migration routes in the world.  Overall, the Eastern Route accounts for over 50 per cent of all regional migratory movements (IOM, 2022). In 2022, over 256,288 Ethiopian migrants were observed traveling towards Yemen and/or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (IOM,2023). On average, a strong majority of recorded arrivals to Yemen are Ethiopian and a small portion are Somalis. The primary reasons for leaving their country of origin are mainly economic but also include environmental shocks and conflict. In 2022, arrivals to Yemen reached over 73,000 people arriving by boat (Ibid.), following a trend of increasing migration flows following the COVID-19 pandemic. In comparison, over 138,000 migrants were recorded arriving in Yemen in 2019 before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (IOM, 2020). In 2023, migrant arrivals to Yemen have reached over 77,000 by mid-year, already surpassing the 2022 annual total and remaining on track to return to pre-COVID-19 levels by year’s end. As of December 2022, 45,072 migrants were estimated to be stranded across the Eastern Route (43,000 in Yemen, 672 in Djibouti, and 1,400 in Somalia) (IOM,2023), unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin and unable to regularize their status in the country where they reside. The majority travel in an irregular manner, often relying on smugglers to facilitate their movement along the Eastern Route.

In addition to outward flows, a complex variety of return movements (including but not limited to voluntary, spontaneous, and non-voluntary returns) calls for humanitarian and development interventions in areas of first arrival and destination. In 2022, over 93,527 migrants were non-voluntarily returned to Ethiopia from the Gulf States (IOM, 2023), at the rate of over 11,000 arrivals to Bole Airport per month. In 2022, MRP partners also recorded 6,148 non-voluntary returns from Djibouti to Northern Ethiopia at the Dewele point of entry (PoE). The high rate of non-voluntary returns  result in overcrowding in reception facilities, leading to increased vulnerability. In addition, returning migrants are often returning to areas affected by conflict, drought, or economic downturn. In 2022, nearly two-thirds of non-voluntarily returned migrants intended to return to conflict-affected regions of Ethiopia.

Throughout their journey along the Eastern Route, migrants face life-threatening situations and are at grave risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse. Most migrants travel long distances on the Eastern Route by foot through extreme heat and rugged terrain, resulting in dehydration and exhaustion. In 2022, MRP partners recorded 89 missing or dead migrants along the Eastern Route (IOM, 2022) with 38 dead and missing in Djibouti, 29 in Yemen, 18 in Somalia, and four in Ethiopia. Many more deaths go unreported. Additionally, migrants are often apprehended by smugglers, border guards, or militias, who frequently utilize violent practices, including kidnapping (IOM, 2021). Women and children, who, on average, comprise roughly a third of the migrant population along the Eastern Route, are the most vulnerable to these protection risks and vulnerabilities.

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