A Region On The Move

The East and Horn of Africa region remains a major global hotspot of mixed migration, mostly forced and irregular within and across borders, directly affecting other African regions, Yemen, the Gulf States and Europe. The mixed flows are multidirectional and include refugees, asylum seekers, displaced and stranded persons, unaccompanied and separated children, migrant workers, trafficked persons and smuggled migrants.  

The region is host to some of the largest, longstanding refugee and displaced person populations in the world, driven by conflict, environmental disasters and insecurity. Some of the most recent conflicts include inter-communal violence in the Gedeo and West Guji zones between April and July 2018 during which 970,000 were displaced, ongoing insecurity in the Democratic Republic of Congo causing the number of Congolese refugees in neighboring countries to reach 810,227 as of September 2018, and civil war in South Sudan generating 1.96 million IDPs and 2.47 refugees as of September 2018. The causes of forced migration are many and complex: protracted and recurrent conflicts, fragile peace agreements, localized instability, scarce natural resources, poverty, poor livelihood opportunities and climate and environmental changes.  Droughts, floods and other environmental hazards are increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change, causing havoc with local economies and mass human displacements.  

Mixed flows continue to be a prominent feature on the East and Horn of Africa’s migration landscape. The majority of migrants migrate within the Horn of Africa (51% between January and June 2018), followed by instances of migration across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to Yemen and onward to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries on the Eastern Route (35%), with movements along the Southern Route and Northern Route only accounting for 8 and 5 per cent of registered flows, respectively. In the first half of 2018 it was estimated that at least 50,339 migrants arrived in Yemen from the Horn of Africa. The route’s continued popularity – despite crossing Yemen’s devastating war zone – is remarkable and underscores the extent that migration is viewed as an economic strategy by some migrants and communities. In fact, arrivals to Yemen in the first half of 2018 were significantly higher than arrival numbers recorded over a similar period in 2017.  

Turning south, the route to South Africa remains popular, particularly for young Ethiopian males. The latest estimates on migrant flows along this route suggest that between 14,750 and 16,850 migrants use this route annually (RMMS). IOM detention and flow monitoring data indicates that a vast majority of migrants on the Southern Route are males migrating in search of better employment opportunities. Looking north, Europe continues to hold its allure for migrants, yet arrival numbers continued on a downward trajectory in the first half of 2018, marking a 43% reduction from arrivals during the first half of 2017 following a combination of actions taken in transit countries. Arrivals from the Horn of Africa constituted 17 per cent of total arrivals to Italy in the first half of 2018, mainly Eritrean, Ethiopian and Somali migrants.

The health implications of migration, particularly large-scale displacements can be disastrous, particularly in countries with weakened health systems.  

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