Migrants celebrating the International Migrants Day at the MRC in Obock. © Photo: IOM Djibouti 2022

Obock, Djibouti - International Migrants Day (IMD) was celebrated at the Migration Response Centre (MRC) in Obock through various activities and was organized in close collaboration with IOM and its partners engaged in the protection of vulnerable communities in this region. Celebrated annually on 18 December, the 2022 theme is “I am a migrant”. 

IMD is an opportunity to dispel prejudices and raise awareness of migrants’ contributions in the economic, cultural and social fields, for the benefit of both their country of origin and their country of destination.

The Republic of Djibouti is located at a strategic crossroads between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula making it a migration route for migrants fleeing from the Horn of Africa to Yemen with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia being the final destination. Many migrants are faced with difficulties such as limited or no access to food and water, harsh climatic conditions, human rights violations, abuse by smugglers and exposure to being victims of human trafficking. 

To address these challenges, and provide life changing interventions, the MRC in Obock offers a range of services adapted to the needs of migrants in vulnerable situations, including accommodation, food, water, non-food items (NFI), medical psychosocial assistance. Since 2020, IOM in Djibouti has provided return assistance to over 2,300 migrants despite movement and other restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to support people on the move. 

Bashir, a 25-year-old, Ethiopian migrant shared his migratory experience. “I left Ethiopia for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to look for a job to improve my life and provide for my loved ones. I was stranded in Yemen under the control of smugglers who exploited me and other migrants. They subjected us to violence and we had limited access to food, water, shelter and health care.  I was lucky to have escaped and boarded a makeshift boat to reach the coast of Djibouti and finally the MRC in Obock where I have received assistance in terms of shelter, food, medical care, counselling, mental health and psychological support in addition to awareness raising on the danger and risks of irregular migration. He advised people to migrate in a regular way which is safe and will help realize their economic dreams.

Bashir recounting this migration experience during the event© IOM Djibouti 2022

“Vulnerable migrants are benefiting from tailored services offered by IOM along the migration corridor and at the Obock’s Migration Response Centre (MRC). Offering the migrants, a second chance while providing durable solutions to irregular migration, is evidence that migration management is better when it is a collective responsibility,” said, Kadiga Ahmed, the Officer-in-Charge Obock MRC

Kadiga Ahmed, Officer-in-Charge Obock, MRC giving her remarks. © Photo: IOM Djibouti 2022

Ahmed Sheick, Vice President of the Regional  Council. © OIM Djibouti 2022

“The Djiboutian population, especially in the rural area has always welcomed and co-existed peacefully with thousands of migrants transiting through this region of the country. Their generosity is an example to the world that the society plays a critical role in migration,” cited Ahmed Sheick, Vice President of the Regional Council. Safe migration should not be viewed as a problem that needs to be solved but rather as a potential solution to the challenges we face. He added. 

In the preceding weeks to the celebrations, drawing workshops for migrants and refugees were conducted. The art from these engagements is on display and a mosaic created has been printed on t-shirts that participants are wearing. 

Messages and information on the risks and dangers of irregular migration were passed through theatrical performances and poems by migrants residing at MRC and students from schools in Obock.   As part of cultural exchange and experiences, an Ethiopian coffee ceremony was conducted. 

Sports matches in traditional volleyball and soccer between team comprised of migrants, host community and partners were played, and the winners were awarded trophies. 

Throughout the year, IOM has organized various forums and events that have brought together host communities and migrants to promote social cohesion, create awareness about safe migration, educate about protection and human rights issues, to discuss reintegration whenever it is perceived as a challenged and have dialogues in areas of interest.  

These activities have been organized within the framework of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for the Protection and Reintegration of Migrants, which aims to promote safer, better informed and better governed migration for both migrants and their communities.

Migrants celebrating the International Migrants Day at the MRC in Obock. © Photo: IOM Djibouti 2022