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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs