THE number of irregular migrants travelling from the Horn of Africa to Yemen and Saudi Arabia dwarfs the number migrating from the Horn towards Europe, says a new report by the Institute for Security Studies.
Despite Yemen’s vicious war, the humanitarian crisis, a vigorous kidnapping and torture-for-ransom industry, and threats of deportation by Yemeni and Saudi authorities, migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia continue to travel to Yemen in the hope of reaching labour markets in the Gulf.
In 2016, a record 117,107 irregular arrivals were recorded in Yemen, 83% of which were Ethiopians, the rest Somalis. Based on the average payment to smugglers ($200–$500 from Ethiopia to Yemen via Djibouti), at a conservative estimate the smuggling networks earned $4.5 million in 2016. Revenues generated by migrant smuggling from Somalia to Yemen was in the range of $10 million.
What’s hard to calculate are the earnings from smuggling people from Yemen and on to Saudi Arabia, the report noted. It points out that there are few incentives for governments in source countries to crack down on migration because of the remittances it generates. Similarly, transit countries also benefit economically from the smuggling business. And, for destination countries, there is a clear demand for cheap labour.
The report, as now seems routine, calls for policies “that address the underlying drivers of migration” rather than simplistic and counter-productive law enforcement measures.