A Region On The Move

Home to an estimated population of 322 million, of which 42 per cent are under the age of 15, the region hosted 6.5 million international migrants. With more than six million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and more than three million refugees and asylum-seekers recorded by the end of 2019, countries in the region continue to experience significant levels of internal and cross-border mobility, including intra- and extra-regional movements. Migration in the region is still triggered by a combination of persistent insecurity and conflict, harsh climatic conditions, public heath emergencies alongside socio-economic drivers and more traditional seasonal and livelihood factors. The region observed a growing trend in intercommunal clashes, particularly in Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan, in addition to abnormal climatic events such as a severe drought, devastating floods and a critical desert locust invasion, all of which affected the EHoA in its entirety.

Last events are marked by the unprecedent restrictions on global mobility caused by the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Beyond the tragic impact that COVID-19 has generated across countries, the pandemic has urged governments to issue multiple restrictive measures impacting movements, including different types of closure of Point of Entry (PoEs), requirements for additional documentation, compulsory quarantine or medical screening procedures, up to nation-wide and/or localized lockdowns. Nonetheless, the global mobility context amidst the COVID-19 pandemic remains highly fluid, as governments and authorities continue to issue new mobility restrictions and policy changes.

This health emergency has been far more severe for mobile populations in fragile contexts, creating new challenges whilst, in parallel, exacerbating their existing vulnerabilities. At mid-2020, migrant flows recorded a significant reduction across all migratory corridors affecting the East and Horn of Africa (EHoA) region. The Eastern Route, the most relevant in terms of volume and characteristics, reported a decrease of 49 per cent, with only around 31,900 new arrivals from the Horn of Africa tracked along the cost of Yemen (62% decrease), as compared to the first half of 2019 . Above all, the rise in barriers to movement has resulted in increasing static migrant populations, most often unable to continue their journey as well as return home. Over the past months, these stranded migrant populations have faced a reduction in available coping mechanisms among host communities, such as access to informal work to sustain their journey, alongside access to health care and other basic services. Even more concerning, several cases of xenophobia, discrimination and stigmatization were reported, whereby migrants were believed to be carriers of the virus. This has dramatically led to instances of arrests, detention, and forced relocations and deportations, the latter occurring only if the countries of origin accept to receive them. By the end of June, it is estimated that at least 3,000 migrants were stranded across the region, with further 14,500 EHoA migrants in Yemen, and other 20,000 in need of assistance in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Information on EHoA migrant caseloads in critical situations were also received from other countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the Middle East.        

IOM produces regular updates on trends and statistics relating to migration.