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.

There are 22, 234 registered refugees in Ali Ade refugee camp in Djibouti.   The population of refugees in Ali Ade camp has surpassed the camps capacity; Authorities are working to open another camp to accommodate over 3,500 refugees who arrived in the first 2 months of 2013.

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 increased by 23% between 2011 and 2012. The total of migrants that arrived in Yemen having departed from Obock and its environs as of end of 2012 was 84,000 which represented 78% of the total.

Refugees and Asylum-seekers in Djibouti

UNHCR statistics as of January 2013[1];

Total refugee population hosted in Djibouti = 20,340  of which;











Total asylum seekers in Djibouti =1,350

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, 22,234 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 2012, over 84,446 migrants were recorded as having used Port Obock in Djibouti to reach Yemen.

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.

Institutional framework

The following agencies in Djibouti are involved in migration and refugee affairs:56

• Commission Nationale d’Éligibilitè des Refugiès (CNE) conducts Refugee Status Determination (RSD) under the auspices of UNHCR.

• Organisation National d’Assistance aux Réfugiés et Sinistrés (ONARS) is located within the Ministry of the Interior (Ministère de l’Interieur) and manages the refugee camps.


The following legislation is of particular importance in the area of mixed migration:

• International conventions: Djibouti is party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the Palermo Protocols (by accession), as well as a signatory to the OAU Refugee Convention and the Kampala Convention. By means of succession, Djibouti is also a party to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its Protocol.

• National legislation (immigration): Act No. 201/AN/07/5éme was adopted in 2007 by the National Assembly and sets the conditions for entry and residence in the Republic of Djibouti.

National legislation (asylum): Ordinance No.77-053/PR/AE is the primary law on refugees. According to Article 1, the law is in line with the international legislation Djibouti is a party to. However, Article 4 states that refugees can be expelled if they pose a threat to national security. Article 7 also stipulates that, with regard to engaging in professional activities, those with a refugee status are treated the same as other foreigners in Djibouti.

• National legislation (smuggling and trafficking): Act No. 210/AN/07/5éme on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings was adopted in 2007 and applies to any person who may be a victim of trafficking, with a focus on vulnerability due to age (under 18), sex (women) or physical and/or mental health. Part IV of the Act (Article 7) provides that the penalty for any person engaged in, or accomplice to a person engaged in, trafficking in human beings is 2-5 years in prison and a fine of 500,000 to 1,000,000 Djiboutian Francs (DJF).58 In severe cases of trafficking - for example, when the act involves violence, kidnapping, the worst forms of child labour or was the work of an organised group - the penalty is 10-15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 to 5,000,000 DJF. Penalties are doubled when the trafficking results in the disappearance or death of the victim.59

Bilateral agreements

Memorandum of Understanding on human trafficking between Djibouti and Ethiopia, November 2009

International legislation to which Djibouti is a State Party

1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees & its 1967 Protocol

OAU 1969 Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

International Covenant on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Convention on the Rights of Children

United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime

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


[1] UNDP

[2] UNHCR Statistical Online Population Database Data extracted: 30/11/2011.

[3] Updated 11/06/2012

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