The New Humanitarian Annual Report 2021

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Yemen returnee numbers soar

An exhausted survivor of the dangerous sea crossing to Yemen from the Horn of Africa
Hundreds of families have returned from Yemen in the past two months, officials said (file photo) (UNHCR/J.Björgvinsson)

Continuing unrest and xenophobia in Yemen have prompted an upsurge in the number of migrants and refugees returning to Somalia, with up to 6,000 reported to have travelled back across the Red Sea since the beginning of October.

"About 400 Somaliland families and 600 Somali families have returned to Somaliland in the last two months,” said Abdillahi Hussein Egeh, director-general of the Interior Ministry in Somaliland, which unilaterally declared its independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991.

“Somalilanders stay in this country, while the Somalis continue their journey to Somalia," he said.

Despite the unrest in there, thousands of Africans continue to make the perilous crossing, in the other direction, to Yemen, many of them fleeing not only conflict but a widespread food crisis in south-central Somalia.

"Most of those fleeing [Yemen] are afraid of being the target of the two sides, due to their concern that [both] have accused Somalis of supporting their rival," said Mohamed Ahmed, a father of three who arrived in Hargeisa, Somalia, in late October.

"I have been captured twice, once by the government forces and again by the opposition. Electricity, water and other basic services are erratic due to the crisis,” he said. The final straw that had pushed him to return to Somalia was the bombing of the university in Yemen, where he used to live.

“My wife and children are still in Yemen, because I was unable able to pay for their transport,” he said, explaining that boat fares have risen significantly.

Livestock trade affected

Somaliland used to export about 15,000 head of livestock every month to Yemen but now only exports a third of that figure, according to local businessmen.

"This is because the livestock can't reach the remote places of Yemen," said Abdi Said, a livestock exporter in Somaliland.

"Our income has decreased. For example, one person used to send 500 head of cattle per month,” he said. “This has gone down to 100 per month.”


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:

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