Djibouti + 1 more

The desire to thrive regardless of the risk: Risk perception, expectations and migration experiences of young Ethiopians migrating along the Eastern Route towards the Arabian Peninsula, Background Analysis by Migrant Category: Obock, Djibouti (April 2020)

Originally published



In 2019, the Regional Data Hub (RDH) for the East and Horn of Africa (EHoA) launched a multistage research project aimed at better understanding the experiences, decision-making, perceptions and expectations of young Ethiopians2 along the Eastern Route regarding their migration projects. The project aims to investigate the nexus between decision-making, migrant expectations and realities on the ground by interviewing migrants leaving the Horn towards the Arab Peninsula.

Although a reasonable body of work examining migrants’ decision-making processes exists, most of this research was conducted outside of the EHoA region. A more nuanced understanding of the migrants’ decision to migrate will help inform strategy and programmatic planning for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other humanitarian and development actors in the region. Obock, Djibouti and Bossaso, Puntland, were selected as the main study sites – both being gateways to Yemen, they receive a large number of Ethiopian migrants travelling on the Eastern Route.3

The project involves both a quantitative and a qualitative phase in each study location, during which semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sample of young migrants. To capture both outward, return and re-migration movements, three different types of individuals migrating along the Eastern Route to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) were included in the sample: (i) individuals migrating for the first time, (ii) individuals who have attempted or successfully completed this journey before; and (iii) individuals who have decided to stop their journey and return to Ethiopia. The final phase of this project will target communities of high emigration in Ethiopia, where returnees, re-migrating and potential migrants will be interviewed to get a more comprehensive picture of their motivations, perceptions and expectations as well as a better understanding of the environment in which migration is taking place.

While the research is still under way, this compilation of data illustrates the preliminary findings for the quantitative phase conducted in Obock, Djibouti, between September and October 2019. Structured surveys were administered to a sample of 2,1404 young adults between 15 and 29 years old at four congregation points in the Obock area, as well as the town centre of Obock and IOM’s Migrant Response Centre (MRC).5

The main report including both quantitative and qualitative findings will be published in the coming months.
Main findings are presented in sections on five specific population sub-groups of interest: first-time, re-migrating and returning individuals, young women and individuals who have migrated internally within Ethiopia before the current migration attempt to the KSA (that is, former internal migrants).

Each section presents a profile of the population group based on multiple indicators including the sociodemographic characteristics of migrants, the place of origin in Ethiopia and intended destination in the KSA, the livelihood conditions at home and main drivers of migration, the decision-making process (including the role of families and friends), the awareness and willingness to take on risks and future intentions. Additional indicators on previous journeys, the role of returnees and/or family members who already migrated to the KSA as providers of information about the journey and living and/or working conditions there as well as the consequences of the decision to return were added to the profiles of re-migrating and returning migrants.