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Influx of migrants strains resources - official

One of some 3,000 Somali refugees who recently fled to Yemen sleeps under a tree in refuge in al-Basateen, a poor neighbourhood in the southern port city of Aden.
(Muhammad al-Jabri/IRIN)

The continuous influx of African migrants into Yemen is straining the country’s resources.

[Read this report in Arabic]

"This continuous influx has caused concern for the Yemeni government. Their big numbers exceed Yemen's ability to deal with them. They require a lot of services," Interior Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hayel told IRIN.

The security authorities registered 1,038 new African migrants, including 276 women and eight children, in the first week of October. Sixty-six were Ethiopians and the rest Somalis. "During that period, 90 people died off the Yemeni coast," he said.

The coast guard authorities had impounded some 10 smugglers’ boats since 1 October, he added.

In one of the worst recent incidents, over 80 would-be African migrants drowned in the Gulf of Aden on 8 October after being dumped 10km off the Yemeni coast, according to Hussein Hajji, the Somali consul in the port city of Aden.

"Over 80 went missing and are presumed dead. Thirty-eight bodies were found on 10 October in two different coastal areas," Hajji told IRIN.


Photo: Mohammed al-Jabri/IRIN
Yemen's coastguards say it is impossible for them to patrol all of the country's 2,500km coastline

He said only 60 passengers made it ashore. "Passengers had to swim a long way and many couldn’t make it,” he said.

Hajji attributed the increasing number of migrants to calm seas, and instability and insecurity in the Horn of Africa.

According to Hayel, the main points of arrival are Ahwar in the southern governorate of Abyan; Rajoum in Shabwa Governorate; Baroum in Hadhramaut; and Dhubab on the Red Sea. Very few enter through Aden, he said.

Automatic refugee status for Somalis

Yemen has signed the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its related 1967 Protocol and has received thousands of African migrants since 1991. Somalis are given automatic refugee status, while non-Somalis (mostly Ethiopians and Eritreans) have to apply to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for refugee status.

There are about 800,000 people from the Horn of Africa, mainly Somalia, in Yemen, according to Hayel. The UNHCR office in Yemen said there were 113,000 African refugees, mostly Somalis, registered in Yemen at the end of 2007.

According to the UNHCR, so far this year, about 32,000 Africans have arrived in Yemen; at least 230 have died and 365 went missing.

In 2007, 29,500 Africans arrived in Yemen and over 1,400 died while trying to cross the Gulf of Aden.

Over 5,000 without shelter

Mohammed Deriah, leader of the Somali community in Aden, has said over 5,000 Somalis have arrived in al-Basatin area, which is home to over 16,000 Somalis, since September.

"People are hungry. They have no shelter," he said, adding that they were sleeping in the open on a nearby farm. “Their number is so big that you can't find a location for your feet. Their condition is truly miserable," he told IRIN.

Most of the new arrivals were young people aged 18-25, all searching for a source of income to sustain themselves.

Deriah said some have left the UNHCR-run Kharaz refugee camp, 150km west of Aden, to find employment in Aden.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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