31 killed after migrant boats sink off Djibouti | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 31, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:57 PM, January 30, 2019

31 killed after migrant boats sink off Djibouti

Scores of fortune-seekers feared missing or dead

The death toll from the sinking of two migrant boats off the coast of Djibouti has risen to 31, the UN migration agency said yesterday, with scores still feared missing.

Two vessels carrying migrants departed from Godaria on the Horn of Africa nation's northeast coast on Tuesday morning, but sank in heavy seas 30 minutes into the journey, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The IOM's chief of mission in Djibouti Lalini Veerassamy told AFP the death toll had hit 31 yesterday.

"This tragic event demonstrates the risks that vulnerable migrants face as they innocently search for better lives," she said in a statement issued by IOM.

Sixteen people were recovered alive following the sinking, with one survivor telling Djiboutian authorities there were 130 people on his boat.

The number of passengers on the second vessel remains unclear, as do the nationalities of those onboard.

Located across the Bab el-Mandeb strait from Yemen and next to volatile Somalia and Ethiopia, Djibouti has in recent years become a transit point for migrants heading to find work on the Arabian Peninsula.

The region of Obock, from where the boat set off for Yemen, is unusual in that it sees people passing in both directions -- boatloads of Yemeni refugees fleeing war cross vessels carrying African migrants seeking better opportunities.

In 2017, 100,000 migrants arrived in Yemen, with many aiming to head north to find work in Saudia Arabia and its neighbours.

This migration continues despite Yemen facing one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

UN officials say 80 percent of the population -- 24 million people -- are in need of aid and nearly 10 million are just one step away from famine.

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