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

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

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