All roads lead to Djibouti as refugees flee Yemen even as migrants head there

Newcomers do not want to stay long in Obock. In the summer, 50C temperatures and ferocious sandstorms sear this dusty port in Djibouti’s underdeveloped north. And yet the small town has become a haven for two very different groups. Travelling south are refugees fleeing the war in Yemen, 25 kilometres away across the Bab-el-Mandeb strait. Heading in the opposite direction are Ethiopian migrants taking smugglers’ vessels towards the very same conflict.

Nearly 35,000 people have made the journey southwards across the strait (which translates as Gate of Tears) to the tiny authoritarian state of Djibouti since March 2015, when Houthi Shia rebels overthrew the Yemeni government and Saudi Arabia responded with a relentless bombing campaign. Just over half are Yemeni. According to the regional mixed migration secretariat (RMMS), which monitors movements between the Horn of Africa and Yemen, the rest are Somali refugees, Djiboutian returnees and other nationalities.

The Somalis and a small number of Eritreans are transferred to two camps in the south of the country and most of the Yemenis move on to Djibouti City, the capital.

But not all have the resources to do so. Many of the 3,000 refugees stuck at Markazi camp, a few miles outside Obock, have already endured one summer of the hot, dusty winds known locally as the khamsin. The winds are so strong they can uproot tents and the refugees are dreading their arrival again this summer.

Source: DEHAI-Eritrea OnLine