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Bodies of 38 migrants, including children, found after ‘tragic shipwreck’ off Djibouti, UN migration agency says

WorldBodies of 38 migrants, including children, found after ‘tragic shipwreck’ off Djibouti, UN migration agency says

The bodies of 38 migrants, including children, have been found after a shipwreck off the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, the UN said on Tuesday, the latest disaster on the so-called Eastern migration route.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration said the boat was carrying around 66 people when it sank in the early hours of Monday.

The tragedy took place about 200 metres off the coast of Godoria in the northeast of Djibouti, the agency said in an email.

“Thirty-eight bodies have been recovered. 22 survivors are being assisted by IOM and local authorities,” IOM regional spokesperson Yvonne Ngede said.

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She said those on the boat included women, children and babies.

In a statement on X, the IOM had said at least six other people were missing and presumed dead after the “tragic shipwreck”.

The Ethiopian embassy in Djibouti said the accident involved a boat carrying around 60 Ethiopian migrants from Djibouti to war-torn Yemen.

Each year, many tens of thousands of African migrants brave the perilous “Eastern Route” across the Red Sea and through war-scarred Yemen to reach Saudi Arabia, a desperate ploy to pull their families out of grinding poverty.

Covered bodies of victims are seen from a capsized boat in northeastern Djibouti. Photo: International Organization for Migration via AP

The Ethiopian embassy in Djibouti said that in the last five years, 189 of its citizens making the journey had lost their lives in boat accidents alone.

“Our citizens are putting themselves and their families in grave danger,” the embassy said.

People should not be “deceived” by human traffickers, it said, calling for the judiciary to take action against them.

The IOM’s Djibouti office said on X that almost 1,000 migrants have died or gone missing on the Eastern Route since 2014.

“Every year tens of thousands of migrants leave the Horn of Africa, mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia trying to reach the Gulf nations, in particular the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to find work and job opportunities,” Ngede said.

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“Many of them reach the border with KSA but don’t make it across. Thousands are stuck in Yemen.”

In August last year, Human Rights Watch accused Saudi border guards of killing “at least hundreds” of Ethiopians trying to cross into the Gulf kingdom from Yemen between March 2022 and June 2023, using explosive weapons in some cases.

Riyadh dismissed the group’s findings as “unfounded and not based on reliable sources”.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia mobilised a military coalition in an effort to stop the advance of Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, who had seized the capital Sanaa from the internationally recognised government the previous year.

In its report, HRW referred to testimony from migrants who said Houthi forces worked with people smugglers and would “extort” them or keep them in detention centres where they were “abused” until they could pay an “exit fee” and head to the border.

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