Migrants Dying off the Horn of Africa: the Bigger Issue
by Hannah on August 24, 2017 - 1:42pm
The recent deaths of 50 African migrants reported on by The New York Times in the publication of the same name on August 16, thrown off their boat by the smugglers that they had paid to ferry them to Yemen, is not an isolated event. In fact, approximately 114 migrants have died attempting to cross the strait that separates the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula this year alone. The treacherous voyage across what is called Bab el Mandeb, or “Gateway of grief”, is being undertaken by more and more young northeastern Africans, primarily from Somalia and Ethiopia, in an attempt to reach Saudi Arabia and the possibility of employment that the fourteenth richest country in the world, according to Business Insider UK, offers, as well as to flee the poverty and famine plaguing their own countries. As a matter of fact, according to Oxfam, 700,000 Ethiopians are on the verge of starvation, and a further 8.5 million are suffering from hunger, and 3.2 Somalis are in situations of crisis-level food insecurity. Unfortunately, reaching dry land is only the beginning of the danger. Migrants must then cross Yemen, which is facing one of the largest hunger crises in the world: 60% of its population, or 17 million people, are facing food insecurity and malnutrition, 6.8 million are nearing a situation of famine and an epidemic of cholera is killing approximately one person per hour, again according to Oxfam.
While the situation is dire, it isn’t unsolvable. Though the biggest change will come from government legislation and aid, it is the individual’s duty to ensure that these changes take place. For instance, a change in Saudi Arabia’s policy on the number of work visas issued, currently under which 63% of applications were rejected in 2016, according to Gulf Business, would directly impact the number of workers seeking to immigrate illegally. Yet, this would just be a bandaid on a gunshot wound: the truest way of decreasing illegal immigration is to improve the situation in the countries that these people are trying to escape from. Lamentably, Donald Trump, president of the United States, which, as of 2015, contributed the largest sums to foreign aid, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, plans to cut aid to Africa. It therefore falls to the citizens to donate to reputable organizations and to call upon their governments to not ignore this crisis, but rather to act.
Gulf Business. "Saudi rejects 63% of work visa applications in 2016 ahead of Nitaqat changes." Gulf Business. 19 July 2017,
Myers, Joe. "Foreign aid: These countries are the most generous." World Economic Forum. 19 August 2016, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/08/foreign-aid-these-countries-are-t... .
Oxfam. "Famine and hunger crisis." Oxfam. https://www.oxfam.org/en/emergencies/famine-and-hunger-crisis .
Tasch, Barbara. "RANKED: The 30 richest countries in the world." Business Insider UK. 6 March 2017, 1:52 p.m., http://uk.businessinsider.com/the-richest-countries-in-the-world-2017-3 .
The New York Times. "The African Migration Tragedy in Yemen." The New York Times. 16 August 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/16/opinion/african-migration-yemen.html .