Covid-19 sparks drop in east Africa migration to Gulf

Covid-19 sparks massive drop in migration from Horn of Africa to Gulf
2 min read
24 February, 2021
The number of migrants making the risky crossing through Yemen to the oil-rich Gulf states has dropped by three-quarters.
Thousands of migrants are currently trapped in Yemen, according to the IOM [Getty]
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a massive decline in migration from the Horn of Africa and East Africa regions to the Gulf, new data from the UN migration agency shows.

Data published by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reveals a 75 percent drop in migration from the Horn of Africa to Gulf states through Yemen.

The number of migrants passing through that route was at a high before the pandemic, despite the significant security risks involved in traveling through war-torn Yemen to reach the oil-rich Gulf states for work opportunities.

More than 138,000 migrants made the crossing in 2019. That number dropped last year to 37,573.

Although the pandemic has reduced migration overall, Covid-related border closures have left thousands of migrants stranded in the Horn of Africa and tens of thousands stranded in Yemen.

Migrants stuck in Yemen face a high risk of detention, forced displacement and violence.

The coronavirus pandemic has also seen a significant decline in deportations from Saudi Arabia.

Almost 121,000 Ethiopian migrants were forcibly returned from the kingdom in 2019, while 37,000 were deported in 2020.

Reports by The Telegraph and Amnesty International last year alleged extremely poor and unsanitary conditions in Saudi detention centres holding Ethiopian migrants, including torture.

The data was published this week as part of a conference by the IOM, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ).

The IOM hopes to support IGAD countries in managing the effects of the pandemic. The body covers East African countries including Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Kenya.

The World Bank has predicted that remittances - money sent home by migrant workers - will fall by around 14 percent this year in comparison to pre-pandemic levels.

The decline is expected to have a significant effect on IGAD economies.

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