COVID-19 Leads to 73% Drop in Migration to Gulf Countries

ADDIS ABABA – A nearly three-fourths decline in migration from the East and Horn of Africa regions towards Gulf Council Countries during 2020, indicates data published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) this week.

IOM’s new study noted that COVID-19 led to a 73 per cent drop in migrants from the Horn of Africa travelling to the Gulf countries through Yemen.



“These findings are significant, especially because African migration through Yemen to the Gulf of Arabia has been high for the past four years—despite security risks in Yemen, which migrants from the region must cross to reach the Kingdom Saudi Arabia and beyond,” the UN Migration agency said.

Despite reduced arrivals in 2020 – due in part to COVID-19 related restrictions—risks increased with more detention, exploitation and forced transfers.

The study shows that the number of migrants crossing via Yemen from the Horn dropped from a high of 138,213 in 2019 to 37,537 in 2020.

Forced returns from Saudi Arabia were also significantly reduced, passing from nearly 121,000 Ethiopian migrants in 2019 to 37,000 in 2020, according to the study.

Moreover, COVID-19 border closures, which have left thousands of workers stranded, left many workers from IGAD region facing exploitation from people smugglers when trying to get home, according to IOM.

As of September 2020, some 3,000 migrants were stranded within the East and Horn of Africa, in addition to another tens of thousands of other migrants from the region stranded in Yemen.

The UN migration agency is working with and supporting IGAD countries to develop and implement integrated regional approaches to responding to the needs of migrants and other vulnerable mobile groups.

“As the world, including our IGAD region, grapples with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is indeed timely and appropriate to re-examine Human Mobility particularly in the Context of COVID-19,” said Workeneh Gebeyehu, IGAD Executive Secretary.

Featured Image: A group of migrants from the Horn of Africa arrive in Obock, Djibouti, guided by a local “facilitator”. [Photo File/IOM]

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