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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Djibouti

While the Constitution of Djibouti does not contain provisions for the protection of the environment, the Republic of Djibouti completed an important milestone on July 1, 2009 by putting in place an environmental code via law No. 51.

Since Rio in 1992 and Rio+20 in 2012, both summits in which Djibouti took part, the Djibouti government has continued to develop legislation in order to protect the environment.

Featured Legislation

1994: Mining Code, Law No. 66/AN/94/3L was promulgated to establish state ownership over all resources contained in Terrestrial soil and marine subsoil. There are three types of permits granting specific mineral rights:

  • Research permit (maximum area of 2,500 square kilometers)
  • Exploration permit (maximum area of 100 square kilometers and rectangular area is oriented north-south or east-west)
  • Operation permit (maximum area of 10 square kilometers where the area is set according to the scale of operations)

1999: Decree No. 99-0202/PR/MTPUL was unveiled. This law prohibits the manufacture, processing, sale, import, placing on the national market and transfer for any reason whatsoever of all varieties of asbestos fibers, whether or not these substances are incorporated into materials. , products or devices.

2001: Decree No. 2001-0011/PR/MHUEAT (Ministère de l’Habitat, de l’Urbanisme, de l’Environnement ET de l’Aménagement du Territoire) was enacted, requiring environmental impact assessments for all activities capable of causing negative impacts on the environment.

2004: The Protection of Biodiversity (Decree No. 2004-0065/PR/MHUEAT) was enacted to define animal and plant species that are endemic or endangered within Djibouti. The hunting, capture, trade, export, or import of endemic or endangered animal species is prohibited. The removal or uprooting of endangered or endemic plant species is prohibited.

2004: Land and Marine Protected Areas (Law No. 45/AN/04/5L) was created in order to protect the following areas:

  • Day Forest
  • Mabla Forest
  • Lake Abbé
  • Lake Ass

2007: Decree No. 2007-0157/PRE was tabled.

The maritime zone of the Port of Djibouti is defined by the coordinates fixed by this decree, relating to the general regulations of the port. The decree is formed by 112 articles divided into 10 titles, namely: General provisions (I): Port officers (II); Ships (III); Use of the maritime zone and the land domain of the port and conditions fixing the enjoyment and the exploitation of the private properties enclave in the perimeter the port and land domain and the port free zone (IV); Use of railway tracks (V); Road use (VI); Private Stores Police (VII); Precautions and means of fighting fires and disasters (VIII); Repressions (IX) and Coming into Force Provisions (X).


2009: The Environmental Code (Law No. 51/AN/09/6e) was passed. The code outlines the required contents of an ESIA. The ESIA must include, at a minimum:

  • Analysis of the baseline environmental conditions of the project site
  • Project description
  • Environmental impacts of the project and the measures to eliminate, reduce, or compensate for adverse impacts on the environment and public health
  • Estimated cost to implement the measures
  • Environmental management plan
  • Results of a public hearing

The Environmental Code also defines the national policy for environmental protection and management. The Code is based on basic principles for managing and protecting the environment against degradation or deterioration to ensure sustainable development. The Environmental Codedefines requirements for protection of the following resources:

  • Water resources (Articles 16 to 26)
  • Soils and geologic resources (Articles 27 to 32)
  • Air and atmosphere (Articles 33 to 44)
  • Human settlements (Articles 45 to 51)
  • Hazardous materials management (Articles 71 to 73)
  • Waste disposal and management (Articles 75 to 88)

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • In Obock, Djibouti, the intersections between environmental crime, forced labour and human trafficking were illuminated when local police authorities discovered that at least 20 people had drowned after smugglers hurled dozens of migrants overboard during a journey from Djibouti to Yemen. The incident occurred in March 2021: Those who survived received medical treatment at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Migrant Response Centre in Obock. 200 migrants, including children, were crowded aboard the fishing boat when it departed Obock and then the smugglers forced approximately 80 people into the sea. Police have concluded that the criminal group responsible for the death of the migrants used an illegal fishing vessel to transport these people; the same vessel has been tied to illegal fishing off the coast of the country. Stephanie Daviot, the Djibouti Chief of Mission, explained that smugglers exploit people desperate to improve their lives for profit, promising them lucrative careers in the fishing industry. Daviot is also calling upon the government to create new migration pathways to allow people to pursue work opportunities abroad in a safe, legal and dignified manner.
  • It is estimated that every year, tens of thousands of young African migrants make the dangerous journey from countries like Somalia and Ethiopia to Djibouti, before boarding illegal fishing vessels to Yemen and traveling onwards to the Gulf nations in search of work. The COVID-19 pandemic created mobility restrictions, but now that restrictions are starting to be lifted, more migrants are waiting to travel across the sea, raising the prospect of more human smuggling. Organizations in both Djibouti and Yemen, have started to provide emergency medical care, food, water and counselling to stranded migrants. In August 2020: IOM launched the Regional Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa and Yemen (RMRP) to respond to the needs of migrants on the Horn of Africa and Yemen, including Djibouti.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Housing, Urban Planning and Environment: