In the days, sometimes weeks, before crossing, Ethiopians seek shade under parched juniper trees and beg for food by the local mosque.

By Laura Secorun (Newsweek) |

A corpse lies by the side of the road. The man, likely an Ethiopian in his late 20s, is face down under a bush with his arms stretched out in front of him. He is wearing only shorts and a bright yellow tank top marred by dust and blood. No shoes, no money, no ID. Passersby heading to Friday prayer are saddened but not surprised.

The man is assumed to be one of thousands fleeing drought in Ethiopia and heading for Saudi Arabia, where they hope to find work. The journey takes them to Djibouti on foot, then by boat to Yemen, the nearest point on the Arabian Peninsula. From Yemen, the migrants pay smugglers to get them across the border to Saudi Arabia. “The worst part is the heat,” says Zeynaba Kamil, a 16-year-old Ethiopian girl who does not know that there is a war in Yemen. She walked for 15 days through the Djiboutian desert, passing Lake Assal, where temperatures sometimes reach 130 degrees.

Zeynaba has made it as far as Obock, a sleepy port town in northern Djibouti that has become a hub for people fleeing both into and out of a war zone. While Ethiopians want to travel from here to Yemen, thousands of Yemeni refugees coming the other way have landed on Djiboutian shores in the last year, escaping the conflict in their country.

In the days, sometimes weeks, before crossing, Ethiopians seek shade under parched juniper trees and beg for food by the local mosque. There are about 1,000 of them here, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). A few miles from town, 1,400 Yemenis live in the Markazi refugee camp, a fenced compound surrounded by vast stretches of desert.

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