News / Africa

Tougher Times Ahead for Yemen's Somali Refugees

During the past 20 years, hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled from Somalia to Yemen, where they are granted automatic asylum. The Yemeni government now says it may change that, saying the Somalis are a burden and a security risk. But new laws may not stem the tide of people crossing the Gulf of Aden. Heather Murdock reports from Basateen, a sprawling slum in southern Yemen that is home to 15,000 refugees.

Somali refugees gather at an area in the village of Basateen near the Yemeni port city of Aden (File)
Somali refugees gather at an area in the village of Basateen near the Yemeni port city of Aden (File)

Multimedia

Audio
Heather Murdock

For many Somali refugees, making the harrowing trip to Yemen is simply an effort to stay alive.

This man says he fled his country to escape al-Shabab, the growing al-Qaida-linked militia in Somalia.  The man, who does not want his name used, was a journalist in Mogadishu six months ago, but after three of his colleagues were killed and he received a death threat, he fled.

Refugees like him come to Yemen packed on tiny fishing boats and are often dumped in the water far off shore. Those who can swim help those who cannot try to make it to land, sometimes while the Yemeni army fires at the smugglers. Many die on the way.

Somali asylum seekers rest on side of main road after an exhausting trip upon arrival on the beach of Hasn Beleid village, east of Red Sea port of Aden (file photo)
Somali asylum seekers rest on side of main road after an exhausting trip upon arrival on the beach of Hasn Beleid village, east of Red Sea port of Aden (file photo)

Survivors face discrimination and crushing poverty in Yemen.  Almost half of the people in this arid Arabian country live on less than $2 a day.  Jobs are scarce and when refugees do find work, it is usually menial labor.   Many Somalis say life was much easier at home, but at least in Yemen, they do not have to worry about getting shot.

Life may soon become even harder for those seeking refuge in Yemen.  In the coming weeks, the government will be reconsidering a policy that offers asylum to all Somalis.  Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Muthana Hassan says this is because the government believes most Somalis who come to Yemen are not fleeing war or persecution, but looking for jobs.

"Most of them are not to be considered under the asylum criteria.  So that is why we think we need to reconsider the issue, in order not to, first of all, encourage people to come here," he said.

Hassan says refugees may also threaten Yemen's security in the future.  Al-Shabab has promised to send fighters to re-enforce al-Qaida in its fight against West, and militants could cross the Gulf disguised as refugees.

But a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Sana'a, Andrew Knight, says militants have not been known to use refugees or refugee boats to enter Yemen.

"Of course we've got a huge coastline that is not very secure, so of course this is an issue. However, until today we have absolutely no evidence of any link between refugees and terrorists," said Knight.

Ethiopian refugee and human rights activist Abiy Abebe says if Somalis are required to prove they are refugees, and not economic migrants, they will face the same harsh treatment as others fleeing war, drought, and political turmoil in the Horn of Africa.

Abede says Ethiopians and Eritreans who land on Yemeni shores are often arrested and deported without a chance to present evidence of persecution in their home countries.

And the Yemeni government, which is signatory to international treaties that obligate it to house refugees, does not appear to be embarrassed by the deportations.  Officials openly complain they believe refugees import disease, crime, and poverty.

But according to the UNHCR's Knight, those claims are the common refrains of governments struggling to care for large incoming refugee populations, and amount to little more than what he calls "uninformed xenophobia."

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More