Key mixed migration characteristics
Most of those entering Djibouti are seeking escape from harsh, oppressive and undesirable conditions elsewhere (mainly Somalia and Ethiopia). The vast majority use Djibouti as a transit territory en route to Yemen and the Gulf States. However there are those that attempt to claim asylum in Djibouti. As a country of destination Djibouti offers most asylum seekers from Somalia refugee status on a ‘prima facie’ basis, whilst those from Eritrea, Ethiopia and other neighboring countries undergo individual Refugee Status Determination procedures.
Nevertheless, of the 19,000 refugees residing in the south east of the country (Ali Adeh refugee camp) the overwhelming majority are Somali. In late 2011 approximately 1000 Somalis were entering Djibouti every month via the Loyada border crossing with Somaliland. These were transported to the refugee camp where some stayed and others used locally based smugglers to continue their journey through Djibouti to the coast and on to Yemen.
Most recent statistics
Since 2009, the departure points around the Obock areas of Djibouti have become the point of choice for the majority of migrants in mixed flows attempting to reach Yemen. The number of people travelling from Djibouti has been rising rapidly as the numbers of those arriving in Yemen doubled between 2010 and 2011. The total of migrants that arrived in Yemen having departed from Obock and its environs as of end October 2012 was 68,236 In October, approximately boats departed every day carrying an average of 68 passengers each.
Refugees and Asylum-seekers in Djibouti
UNHCR statistics as of September 2012;
Total refugee population hosted in Djibouti = 20,340 (UNHCR January 2011 statistic plus 11/06/2012 UNHCR update of Somali refugees) of which;
Total asylum seekers in Djibouti = 732
Total Djiboutian refugees worldwide = 566
Total Djiboutian asylum seekers worldwide = 232
Main drivers and motivation for migration
Mixed migration in Djibouti is characterized by a rising tide of Ethiopians and Somalis who overwhelmingly use it as a transit country on their way to Yemen. Some linger in Djibouti town where there is a sizable Somali community (some working in the informal sector) or are detained in a designated detention centre for ‘illegal migrants’ but most do not intend to remain in Djibouti. Despite the poverty of Djibouti, authoritarian state and limited employment and livelihood opportunities very few Djiboutian have been documented as leaving their country and joining the international flow of migrants.
Djibouti has a total country population of 905,600(UNDP; Human Development Reports 2012) and a poverty level index (UNDP 2011) with the following assessments : Human Development Indicator (score value = 0.430 Ranked 165 and the Multidimensional Poverty Index (score value = 0.139) Ranked at 164 out of 187 countries.
As a country of origin - mixed migration
Negligible. According to the CIA Fact File official figures, Djibouti has a net migration of – 5.33 migrants/1,000 population, meaning that it receives more people than the number leaving the country.
As a country of mixed migration destination
Most of those entering Djibouti are seeking escape from harsh, oppressive and undesirable conditions elsewhere (mainly Somalia and Ethiopia). The vast majority use Djibouti as a transit territory en route to Yemen and the Gulf States. However there are those that attempt to claim asylum in Djibouti. As a country of destination Djibouti offers most asylum seekers from Somalia refugee status on a ‘prima facie’ basis, whilst those from Eritrea, Ethiopia and other neighbouring countries undergo individual Refugee Status Determination procedures. There are approximately, 17,000 refugees residing in the south east of the country (Ali Adeh refugee camp) the overwhelming majority are Somali. In late 2011 approximately 1000 Somalis were entering Djibouti every month via the Loyada border crossing with Somaliland.
As a country of mixed migration transit
Djibouti serves as a vital transit country for mixed migratory flows towards the Gulf States and the Middle East and beyond. Recent reported figures have shown that the number of Ethiopians transiting through Djibouti have increased with the intention of their next port of destination being Yemen. There is also a marked increase in the number of Somalis who are opting to transit through the Djiboutian port of Obock to Yemen rather than the port of Bossaso (previously the departure point of choice). In October, 2012 alone there was an average of 102 boats that left Djibouti for Yemen and 7,013 migrants crossed the border from Djibouti.
Characteristics of migration (means and modes)
Those passing into Djibouti or through Djibouti come by foot or mini-bus. Those who can afford to contract smugglers may be transport from border crossing areas to Djibouti city or Obock while those who cannot may walk along the roads or through desolate areas to reach their destination. Those that aim to reach Yemen use smugglers to clandestinely transport them to Yemen across the Red Sea. Migrants arriving at the Loyada border (with Somaliland) are screened by UNHCR and the government refugee agency (ONARS- office nationaled'assistance aux refugie setsinistres) and transported to the Ali Adeh refugee camp located 3 hours away in a remote part of the desert.
Risks and vulnerabilities of mixed migration in Djibouti
There have been reports of deaths of those transiting in Djibouti. Tens and possibly hundreds have been reported found dead in desolate areas where Ethiopians, in particular, walk through on their way to the coast. They walk through dry hot areas in an effort to avoid detection on the roads. There are other reports of sexual and physical abuse of migrants as they approach and wait along the coast. The perpetrators are reportedly the armed groups that control the smuggling. Abuse is frequently reported by those that take boats from the Djibouti shores to Yemen. Beatings, rape and forced disembarkation (in deep water) are the main abuses reported. In some cases exploitation extends to the destination shores where migrants are held hostage and/or violently abused/robbed by the smugglers demanding more money.
National immigration laws and policies
Officially the government of Djibouti is unhappy about the number of people caught up in mixed migration that pass through (and reside) in their territory. Smuggling and trafficking are illegal by Djiboutian law. Authorities in Djibouti often round up and arrest migrants travelling through the country without proper documentation.
The government reportedly takes a strong stand against smuggling by sea from their territory and the Djiboutian Coast Guards frequently intercept boats full of smuggled people as they leave the Djibouti coastal location en route to Yemen. Migrants interviewed in Yemen say in some cases boat owners and captains pay the Coast Guards money to continue their journey.
Ethiopians are seen as irregular /illegal migrants .Following the heightened securitization in the region in relation to Islamic fundamentalism, linked to the Somali-based Al-Shabaab militants, Djibouti has, at an official level imposed security restrictions on Somalis (particularly single males) entering its territory despite their prima facie refugee status.
Ordonnance no. 77053/P.R/A.E. portantstatut des réfugiéssur le sol de la République de Djibouti [Djibouti], 9 November 1977 (Refugee Act)
Loi n°210/AN/07/5ème L relative à la Lutte Contre le Trafic des Etres Humains - Law 210 "Regarding the Fight Against Human Trafficking" covers both internal and transnational trafficking and prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons. It protects victims regardless of ethnicity, gender, or nationality.
Loi No. 200/A.N./1981 portant code de la nationalitédjiboutienne [Djibouti], 24 October 1981– Relevant in situations where migrants marry and/or have children with Djiboutian nationals.
Memorandum of Understanding on human trafficking between Djibouti and Ethiopia, November 2009
International legislation to which Djibouti is a State Party
Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children
Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea
Other sites offering comprehensive country profile information other than mixed migration
Central Intelligence Agency(USA)
United Nations Data Country Profile - Djibouti
2011 UNHCR Country Profile - Djibouti
Official website of the Republic of Djibouti.
U.S. Department of State Report – Djibouti 2011
 UNHCR Statistical Online Population Database Data extracted: 30/11/2011.