News / Africa

No Help for Non-Somali Asylum Seekers in Yemen

At 25-years-old, Mulumabet Addam, an Ethiopian refugee, is a widow, and runs a small music shop in Sana'a
At 25-years-old, Mulumabet Addam, an Ethiopian refugee, is a widow, and runs a small music shop in Sana'a
Heather Murdock

As the Ethiopian elections approach and the region struggles to survive the worst drought since 2000, more and more people flee the Horn of Africa to Yemen every year.  On Yemen's shores, Somalis find safe passage to refugee camps, while non-Somalis flee the beach. Many are arrested and deported without the chance to plea their case to the U.N. refugee agency. 

Here at the Zed Music shop, popular Ethiopian music plays as the shop owner, Mulumabet Addam, watches over her baby daughter sleeping on the floor under the counter.

Mulumabet says as an Ethiopian refugee, her only identification is a letter from the UNHCR.  As far as the Yemeni government is concerned, she is an illegal immigrant.

Mulumabet, like many African refugees, says she is regularly harassed and discriminated against.  Last year, she says, her home was raided and her husband was killed.  Neither the police, nor the UNHCR could help.

It is impossible to tell exactly how many non-Somali refugees from Africa are smuggled across the Gulf of Aden each year, because many hit the beach and start running.  Somalis fleeing war are granted automatic refugee status when they arrive in Yemen, but non-Somali Africans are regularly arrested and deported.

And the number of new arrivals has increased dramatically in the past year, mostly from Ethiopia.

Yemen is only country in the Arabian Peninsula to have signed on to international treaties that obligate the country to allow immigrants a chance to apply for asylum.

UNHCR official Samer Haddadin says that the Yemeni government is correct when it says most of the people coming from Africa to Yemen are looking for jobs, not fleeing persecution.  But he says Yemen still needs to allow everybody the chance to plead their case.

"If there is one asylum seeker, it's a good reason for UNHCR to demand screening all of the thousands [of people leaving] to find that one asylum seeker, so we can make sure that no single refoulement or return by force where a person's life and freedom is being threatened," said Samer Haddadin.

Many non-Somalis that avoid deportation make it to the UNHCR and are recognized as refugees by the international organization, but not by the Yemeni government.  At the moment, almost 5,000 non-Somali Africans are registered with the UNHCR.  

Adventist Development and Relief Agency project manager Soo-Rae Hong says without government identification, non-Somali refugees have trouble renting homes, getting jobs and traveling.

"They are often imprisoned, and you have no right to fight for it because they have no identification," said Soo-Rae Hong. "They are not legally supposed to be in this country."

And since al-Shabab, an extremist militant group in Somalia, has announced its intention to reinforce al-Qaida in Yemen, Africans all over the country have reported a wave of violence and police harassment.  According to the UNHCR's Haddadin, between the violence, the dangerous trip across the Gulf of Aden, and Yemen's lack of support system, the country is not a safe place for non-Somali African refugees.   

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs