Displacement in Djibouti

This project aims to study mobile populations in Djibouti, including refugees, migrants, nomads and populations internally displaced populations due to climate change, and the sizeable “floating population” of long-term undocumented residents.

13 Jul, 2023

Overall objectives

The overall objective of this activity is to study the displaced population comprising refugees, migrants and those internally displaced in Djibouti, and to compare them to the host population. The proposed activity aims to collect information on this important subgroup of the population with a view to understanding their profile, to study their socio-economic situation, and to build knowledge on their migration flows. The analysis based on the collected data will inform the dialogue with the Government of Djibouti (GoD), IOM and other stakeholders and will help their prioritization processes. Currently, the Government is leading the process of drafting the new development plan with the support of partners. The initial draft of the plan is expected in March 2021 and results from this exercise could contribute to this plan.

The implementation of this activity will lead to three key results that will increase available information for the GoD and the donor community. First, the project implementation will establish a system of sampling and data collection that can help to monitor the situation on the ground in a context where data collection on displaced populations is challenging. Second, once the project is launched, the team will ensure the sustainability of this activity, including by creating local research capacity to respond to emergency requests of data collection, thus ensuring continued use is made of the new capacity to rapidly collect data using mobile phones. This greater capacity could subsequently help the GoD and donors such as UNHCR and IOM to monitor the socio-economic conditions of migrants and displaced individuals and to design evidence-based policies. Finally, the sampling and data collection systems set up for Djibouti could be used to undertake similar exercises in other MENA/Horn of Africa countries that face data deprivation. The model used for Djibouti can be replicated in other conflict affected areas.

Activity description

In consideration of the complex nature of the dynamic population within Djibouti’s borders, this study proposes to study six subgroups of the population[2]:  a) officially registered refugees and asylum seekers; b) the host population; c) international migrants (in Djibouti fleeing conflict, environmental shocks or for economic, health, family or other reasons); d) those internally displaced with a fixed residence (fleeing conflict, environmental shocks or for economic, or other reasons); e) those internally displaced without a fixed residence (fleeing conflict, environmental shocks or for economic or other reasons); f) foreign migrants in transit (fleeing conflict, environmental shocks or for economic or other reasons).

The proposed activity aims at collecting information on these important subgroups of the population with a view to understand their profile, to study their socio-economic situation as well as to build knowledge on their migration flows. In addition, data will also be collected on host populations to yield meaningful comparisons.

The set of activities that will be implemented in a sequential manner are as follows: i) A series of semi-structured qualitative interviews to understand the range of issues facing these populations, ii) Cartographic work; iii) Listing exercise and design of sampling framework: iv) Using the sampling framework and a listing survey, a survey through detailed face-to-face Computer Assisted Personal Interviews (CAPI)[3] and; iv) Tracking of households that were interviewed face to face through computer assisted telephone interviews (CATI).

Engagement with partners

The World Bank’s Global Practice on Social, Urban and Rural Development, and Resilience (GSURR) has entered into two grant agreements with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)[4] in the context of the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP).  While most transit migrants entering Djibouti seek to travel to countries such as Yemen and the Persian Gulf countries, many settle in Djibouti city and their presence puts pressure on existing social services and available resources. However, in the first draft of the Draft Response to the Development of the Impacts of Displacement, Djibouti City was not considered due to a lack of sufficient information on the presence of a large number of IDPs and immigrants living in the city. It is in this context that a study has been programmed by the Djibouti Social Development Agency (ADDS) to measure the weight of migrant and displaced populations within the population of Djibouti city. MoI ONARS will help in the design of the study as well as to determine definitions of the different subgroups of the population. The results will be used to inform the DRDIP project, Government and Partners about the presence of migrants and displaced populations in order to implement interventions and programs to improve their access to social services, livelihoods and economic opportunities. This study, led by GSURR, will be implemented in consultation with UNHCR and IOM. The team is working with GSURR, IOM and UNHCR to undertake one data collection effort that corresponds to the needs of all stakeholders. The team will directly seek input from UNHCR representatives and to seek their advice and their active consultation in the data collection and analysis phases.

Background and Context

Over the past decade, Djibouti has become a country of destination and transit for migrants and forcibly displaced populations over the Gulf of Aden and through the Horn of Africa. The country has thus started to play an important security role in the region by hosting refugees fleeing conflicts and environmental risks in neighboring countries such as Somalia and Yemen. While many of these are transit migrants seeking to continue to travel onward to other countries in Africa or the Persian Gulf, others settle in Djibouti city. Their presence puts pressure on existing social services and available resources. Another sub-group of the Djiboutian population that is highly vulnerable and requires urgent attention includes those internally displaced by environmental shocks. Djibouti has been experiencing longer and more frequent cycles of drought, accompanied by continued desertification and significant losses of livestock and pastures which has led to internal displacement of a significant share of its nomadic population.

The official number of refugees in Djibouti, as reported by UNHCR, stood at 30,956 in 2017. The registration and Refugee Status Determination of refugees and asylum-seekers in Djibouti are the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior, through the L’Office National d’Assistance aux Réfugiés et Sinistré (ONARS). Each individual goes through the eligibility process and the decision to grant asylum is undertaken in compliance with the refugee national law. In addition to refugees and asylum seekers, there are other individuals—Djiboutian and international migrants—that are living in precarious situations in Djibouti. Estimates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (2017) suggest that there are about 60,000 refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants. Other sources suggest that the population of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the country may be as large as 150,000[1]. With a comparatively small total population of less than one million, managing flows of people is high on the agenda of decision makers in the country. Indeed, these migration dynamics have placed Djibouti on the eligibility list of the IDA-18 (and subsequent replenishments’) Refugee Sub-Window.

Despite the national importance of this issue, it has been difficult to establish hard numbers and socioeconomic welfare of these groups. Despite including specific questions to identify migrants, the 2017 household budget survey found very few likely because it used standard household survey sampling techniques. The under-recording of highly mobile populations is a key challenge pertaining to all household surveys and to the identification of issues associated with migrants.

The proper identification of migrants has become even more critical as Djibouti is in the process of creating digital IDs for all citizens and residents of the country. Not having an ID could further marginalize displaced populations by disallowing them access to basic public services such as hospitals and schools.

In addition to helping to fill these data gaps, the results and findings from this study can also feed into the formulation of the National Development Plan which aims at revising targets and indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The National Development Plan is currently being prepared by the government, with consultations from development partners and stakeholders.

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/trustfundforafrica/sites/euetfa/files/ad_djibouti_-_crrf_and_migration_ofckhwf.pdf

[2] These sub-groups may change and be redefined depending on the findings from the listing exercise, in particular to ensure that power calculations are based off of groups who are displaced due to violence or threat of violence.

[3] This will employ the Rapid Emergency Response Survey method. Details can be found in the World Bank Publication “Data collection in fragile states”, Innovations from Africa 

[4] IGAD is composed of 7 countries in East and the Horn of Africa, namely Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda

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