Migration Flows in the Horn of Africa and Yemen

Overview - 2018

Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) continues its flow monitoring implementation to collect data on migration flows observed across The Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, and Djibouti) and Yemen.

Monitoring the Migration Flows

Flow monitoring (FM) provides regular and up to date information on the trend of scale and profile of population movements by capturing data at selected Flow Monitoring Points (FMPs). FMPs are selected based on baseline location assessment conducted through participatory mapping with key informants. The assessment is done regularly and indicates the relevance of different locations in the country for the establishment of FM exercises which include Flow Monitoring Registry (FMR) and Flow Monitoring Survey (FMS). Geographical coverage of FM activities is not exhaustive and is limited to selected FMPs. Information provided by FMR and FMS is representative only of the selected FMPs where they were collected. The results must be read as indicative of change in trends, rather than exact measurements of mobility.

The flow monitoring methodology consist of the following basic components:

1. High Mobility Location Assessments: Aimed at identifying locations of high mobility to ascertain where to set up Flow Monitoring Points (FMP).
2. Flow Monitoring Registry (FMR): Aimed at capturing quantitative data regarding migration flows in order to track movement trends of mobile populations passing through fixed FMPs.
3. Flow Monitoring Survey (FMS): Aimed at capturing qualitative information about migrants passing through FMPs.

FMPs in The Horn of Africa

Flow Monitoring Points (FMPs) allow DTM to quantify and qualify migration flows, trends, and routes, at transit points (such as border crossing posts, bus stations, rest areas, police checkpoints and reception centres).

Flow Monitoring Points (FMP)

Migration Routes

Historically, migrants in the Horn of Africa have primarily moved along three routes: the Eastern route through Yemen, the Middle East and beyond; the Northern route through Sudan, and either through Libya and on to Europe (Central Mediterranean Route) or through Egypt to Israel (Sinai Route); and the Southern route through Kenya, Tanzania and further onwards to South Africa. Besides these routes, a very significant portion of the movements takes place within the Region.

Movements by country

The Horn of Africa and Yemen

Movements by route

Data Source:DTM Flow Monitoring Register(FMR)
Flows observed at FMPs between January and December 2018

Mapping migration flows in HoA

The map below shows that 54 per cent most of the movements observed at the Flow Monitoring Points were within the Horn of Africa and neighbouring countries such as Sudan and Kenya. On the other hand, the largest movements outside the region were directed towards the Arabian Peninsula (36%) with Saudi Arabia being the main intended destination.

As the map above shows, movements coming into HoA from the Arabian Peninsula were modest when compared to those going in the opposite direction . The largest movement observed from the Arabian Peninsula towards HoA (10,691 movements) originated from Yemen towards Somalia as the destination.

Most of the migrants who intended to travel to the Arabian Peninsula were Ethiopian nationals, traveling through Djibouti to reach Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

Drivers of Migration

According to a sample of over 15,000 respondents , the drivers of migration in the HoA show different trends when compared to the responses of those moving along the eastern, northern or southern routes. While most of the movements outside the HoA were motivated by economic reasons, intra-regional migration within HoA was driven by a combination of different factors.

On the same survey, respondents were asked the reasons why they specifically chose a given destination country. For those traveling outside the Horn of Africa, the pursuit of job opportunities was the main reason. On the other hand, movements within The Horn of Africa were characterized by a broad variety of reasons.

Difficulties along the routes

Of the respondents, 57 per cent reported difficulties from the beginning of the journey . Migrants traveling towards the HoA reported substantially more difficulties than those traveling along the Northern, Southern and Eastern routes. Overall, the main challenges reported during the journeys were 'hunger and thirst' followed by 'sickness' and 'financial issues'.


The data collected across 40 flow monitoring points (FMPs) shows that movements along the Eastern route — mainly Ethiopian nationals — represent a significant portion (37.76 %) of the total. Movements within the HoA (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti) represents 52.41 per cent of the total movements. Migrants traveling along the Northern Route (3.93%) and Southern Route (5.70%) account for about 10 per cent of the total movements.

Route Movements Percentage
HoA (Inside The Horn of Africa) 437,432 52.41%
Eastern Route 315,172 37.76%
Southern Route 47,545 5.70%
Northern Route 32,824 3.93%
Other Routes 1,692 0.20%

93,091 migrants coming from the HoA were observed in southern Yemen in 2018 , positioning the Eastern Route as one of the busiest maritime migration routes in the world.

The reasons for migration in the region (HoA) were significantly different from those observed on the other routes. While drivers of migration inside the HoA are mixed, movements along the Eastern, Southern and Northern routes were mainly driven by economic reasons (90%). Migrants moving inside the HoA reported notably more difficulties than those moving along the other routes. The main challenges faced en route were 'hunger and thirst', 'sickness' and 'financial issues'.

Migrants walking across Lake Assal region (Djibouti) one of the lowest and hottest places on earth

Video : Muse Mohammed / IOM

Data Exploration