News / Africa

    Thousands of Migrants Stranded in Yemen

    Yemen
    Yemen

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Joe DeCapua
    Humanitarian agencies say thousands of migrants from the Horn of Africa are living in harrowing conditions along the Yemen-Saudi Arabia border. Many have been robbed and tortured by traffickers.

    Migrant workers from the Horn see Saudi Arabia as a place where they may find jobs. But getting there often means traveling to and through Yemen and becoming targets of smugglers and traffickers.

    The routes to Yemen include long and dangerous boat trips from Somalia over the Gulf of Aden - and the much shorter trip from Djibouti across the Red Sea. But there, too, they are at the mercy of smugglers, who may rob them or even throw them overboard.

    The International Organization for Migration estimates there are at least 25,000 migrants along the Yemen-Saudi border.

    “The majority are Ethiopian migrants, who undertake this really quite dangerous journey. There’s also a number of refugees who come across. They’re mostly Somalis, who are recognized as refugees automatically here in Yemen because Yemen is a signatory to the refugee convention. But three-quarters of the flows coming across from the Horn of Africa are indeed Ethiopian migrants,” said Nicoletta Giordano, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Yemen.

    Yemen does not recognize the Ethiopians as refugees.

    “They find themselves destitute and quite exhausted by the journey by the time they get to the border with Saudi. And that’s where they fall prey to smugglers and traffickers with respect to the final leg of the journey over to Saudi Arabia,” she said.

    To make matters worse, Saudi Arabia has tightened its foreign worker labor laws. It means the border is essentially closed to the migrants. Saudi Arabia has also resumed building a fence to eventually seal off the 1800 kilometer border with Yemen.

    “Many of the foreign workers that were in Saudi up till now are no longer considered regular workers. And therefore are obliged to leave the country quite suddenly. And on the other hand, there are still thriving smuggling and trafficking communities at the border with Saudi, who have these large groups of migrants, who they are trying to get across. But they’re also trying to get money and possessions from [them] and that’s why they’re prey to abuse,” she said.

    Recently, Yemen forces raided smuggler camps along the border at Haradh. They are reported to have rescued nearly 2,000 migrants being held against their will. Some had been sold from one smuggling group to another and some were held for ransom.

    But even after being freed from the camps, there’s little humanitarian aid available for them. Aid agencies said their resources are already stretched very thin. The IOM is appealing for $1.2 million dollars to help Yemen provide shelter, food and health care.

    A delegation from humanitarian agencies visited the Yemen-Saudi border Thursday. They describe conditions there as harrowing.

    The stranded migrants are taken to the capital.

    “The migrants are brought down to Sana’a. And, of course, they’re being held in the open, and the migrants would be free to actually walk off, but they’re not. They’re not, because it’s obvious that there’s nothing for them in Yemen. And so they’re quite keen to go back to Ethiopia,” said Giordano.

    However, getting them back home is easier said than done. So far, only one of three scheduled military flights has left Sana’a for Ethiopia. There were 318 Ethiopians on board, a fraction of those wanting to return.

    While more flights are being planned, the IOM says many migrants have sought shelter at the Ethiopian embassy and a Yemeni military base.

    You May Like

    Ethiopia's Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?

    Yonatan Tesfaye was detained in December 2015 on charges under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora