We met in the desert,” says Badru Mohammed, gesturing at his three companions. The four Ethiopian boys pause for breath and refreshment beside the road, grasping their plastic water bottles tightly as they sip, careful not to waste a drop. The Djiboutian sun is still low in the sky but the road is already hot. They have more than 200km left to walk and their plastic sandals are disintegrating.
Badru and friends are from Jimma, a poor farming district in Ethiopia’s Oromia region. Over the past fortnight, they have traveled more than 1,000km from their homes, first on buses and then later on foot, jumping the border into neighboring Djibouti under the cover of darkness. When the group gathered in Dire Dawa, a town in the arid drylands of eastern Ethiopia a couple of hundred kilometers from the border, there were 20 of them. “Most are left in the desert,” says Badru wearily. “They are very tired. I don’t think they can follow us.”
The Djiboutian police estimate that around 200 Ethiopians enter undercover like this each day, trekking through some of the most inhospitable terrains on earth in the hope of reaching war-stricken Yemen, across the Red Sea, and eventually wealthy Saudi Arabia. In February IOM, the UN’s migration agency, tracked nearly 17,000 migrants in Djibouti, most making their way northwards towards the coastal towns of Obock and Tadjoura; more than two-thirds were men and 8% were unaccompanied minors. The vast majority were from Oromia. […] CONTINUE READING