IOM staff assisting Somali and Ethiopian migrants, who were reportedly forced into the sea by smugglers, on a beach in Shabwa, Yemen | Photo: EPA/IOM
IOM staff assisting Somali and Ethiopian migrants, who were reportedly forced into the sea by smugglers, on a beach in Shabwa, Yemen | Photo: EPA/IOM

Many Ethiopian immigrants who try to reach Saudi Arabia are not aware of the risks of the journey, a study by the UN migration agency IOM shows.

Only 30% of Ethiopian migrants seeking to find work in Saudi Arabia by crossing the Gulf of Aden are aware that Yemen -- the country they must cross to reach their destination -- is in its sixth year of conflict, IOM found in a new study published on May 22. Less than 50% know of the dangers of boats capsizing at sea, according to IOM.

The study, titled 'The desire to thrive regardless of risk,' was carried out by the UN agency's Regional Data Hub.

Researchers found that many of the young Ethiopian migrants on the Eastern Route to the Middle East remained unaware of the risks of the journey. What exactly are those risks? They include a high likelihood of experiencing hunger, dehydration, or contracting waterborne and gastrointestinal diseases in transit, along with the possibility of being abused, IOM said.

At least 400,000 Ethiopians have left since 2017

IOM said in a statement that the study is based on interviews with over 2,000 young Ethiopians in Obock, Djibouti, trying to reach Saudi Arabia.

Since 2017, at least 400,000 Ethiopians have crossed to the Arab Peninsula. Last year, over 120,000 migrants were returned from Saudi Arabia to Addis Ababa, IOM said.

Most migrants interviewed by IOM wanted to move for socio-economic reasons. Many expected to earn seven times more pay in Saudi Arabia than in Ethiopia.

IOM researchers found that many young Ethiopians are encouraged to leave by a strong migration culture. Many migrants know families within their communities who have improved their living standards with remittances from Saudi Arabia.

Most migration decisions made quickly

Many migrants who fail to reach Saudi Arabia are likely to try again. 64% of migrants interviewed by IOM had attempted the journey at least twice before.

The decision to migrate is usually made quickly: 83% of first-time migrants made decided to leave less than a month prior to departure, IOM said. A reported 59% of migrants undertaking their first trip did not inform their families before leaving.

IOM Regional Director for East & Horn of Africa Mohammed Abdiker said that the new report "shows us just how misinformed many Ethiopian youth who embark on these dangerous journeys are." He added: "They are ill-prepared, ill-equipped, and often put their lives in harm's way, opening themselves to abuse and exploitation. The report will enable IOM to better target its work with this community to dispel some of the myths of irregular migration."

 

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