Genet* paid 25 thousand-birr (around US$800) to smugglers who were to take her, along with scores of other Ethiopians, to Yemen en-route to the Gulf States to look for employment.

However, this was not to be as the journey ran into an unforeseen and near-fatal snag.

Genet is one of 53 migrants who in January were involved in a car accident in Dikhil, located to the southwest of Djibouti on the border with land-locked Ethiopia. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) promptly deployed a team to provide relief.

Of the 53 involved, 32 had been injured. These migrants received assistance at health structures in the region, the Centre Medicale Hospitalier and Hopital Peltier de Djibouti. Others were transferred to Djibouti City, the capital.

A medical team from IOM Djibouti kept watch over the injured and provided them with food and counselling support.

Among the injured, four were minors who were transferred from hospital to the premises of an NGO, Caritas Djibouti, which operates a night shelter for vulnerable migrant children in collaboration with IOM. They stayed there until their return to Ethiopia at the end of January.

Another five agreed to be enrolled into IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme before being referred to the Ethiopian community where they were to be supported as they recovered from their trauma.

For Genet the accident was a dream shattered. Soon after the crash, the smugglers abandoned her and all the injured and continued the journey with the rest of the migrants.

However, this is not unheard of. There are many such stories of the hardships faced by migrants in Djibouti. In the same month in 2019, 58 migrants died when two overloaded boats capsized, about half an hour after setting sail from the country's northeastern coastline.

The migrant movements have continued, and Genet is just one of many Ethiopians who cut across Djibouti each day with the intention of reaching the coast from where they are assisted to cross the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden.

In 2019 a total of 468,234 movements were recorded by the IOM through flow monitoring on the Eastern Route, of which 86% were motivated by economic reasons. Twelve percent of the overall movements were of children.

Migrants on this route face many risks – worsened by the fact that once they reach Djibouti, they usually hitch-hike or simple walk, often for days. This in turn opens them up to the dangers of dehydration as much of Djibouti is rocky desert with temperatures rising to as much as 50 degrees Celsius in the summer months.

Vehicle accidents are just one additional risk.

The support provided to the victims of this tragic road accident was funded under the European Union-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa whose aim is to enable migrants to return in a safe and dignified manner to their countries of origin. This is a 43 million Euro programme (covering Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan) that is part of a wider initiative conceptualized with 26 countries in the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa and in North Africa. It facilitates orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration management through the development of rights-based and development-focused procedures and processes on protection and sustainable reintegration.

* The name of the migrant was changed for her protection