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Stranded Migrants Dying on Yemeni-Saudi Border

Ethiopian irregular migrants stranded in the border town of Haradh
Ethiopian irregular migrants stranded in the border town of Haradh

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Lisa Schlein

The International Organization for Migration reports increasing numbers of stranded migrants are dying on the Yemeni-Saudi border. It says 30 migrants from the Horn of Africa have died in recent weeks.

The International Organization for Migration says the latest deaths highlight the urgent need to help the growing number of irregular migrants left at the Yemeni-Saudi border in a desperate situation.

IOM spokeswoman, Jemini Pandya, says the migrants are stranded in the border town of Haradh after having made a long, perilous journey to Yemen from the Horn of Africa.

She says the migrants, who mainly are from Ethiopia, Somalia or Sudan start their journey in hopes of going to the Gulf or beyond in search of work. But, the reality, she says is quite different.

"They are living out in the open. They have no food," Pandya said. "They end up surviving on whatever scraps of food they can find. They are often severely dehydrated and there are no facilities at Haradh for them. And, to add to the situation, what is actually now happening is that there are an increasing number of migrants who are being deported from Saudi Arabia and dumped at the border with Yemen."  

Pandya says the irregular migrants are picked up inside Saudi Arabia, put on buses and taken to the border. She says IOM does not know exactly how many migrants are deported and subsequently stranded.

"It is very clear to see there is a bottleneck that is rapidly developing and becoming increasingly acute," she added. "Yemen, as I have stressed already, is a major transit route for migrants and asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa. And, this all together with the deportations means that the figures are just simply mushrooming."

IOM and its partners recently began assisting a group of 2,000 Ethiopian irregular migrants at Haradh to go home. Since mid-November, IOM has assisted 785 of the migrants to voluntarily return home. And, it expects that number to increase to more than 1,000 by next week.Pandya says the group of migrants that has returned home includes 154 women and minors who had been held in Yemeni detention centers. She says IOM urgently needs $1 million to help the remaining migrants go home.

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