Saturday, February 10, 2018

Ethiopian refugees missing off Yemen coast

Fri Feb 9, 2018 06:33PM

Smoke billows in Yemen's Aden, as fighters from the separatist Southern Transitional Council move closer to taking full control of the southern city, on January 30, 2018. (Photo by AFP)
Smoke billows in Yemen's Aden, as fighters from the separatist Southern Transitional Council move closer to taking full control of the southern city, on January 30, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says 25 Ethiopian refugees have gone missing after being forced into the sea as they approached the coast of Yemen.
The men were on one of the four boats that ferried Ethiopians to Yemen on Thursday, Mohammed Abdiker, director of operations and emergencies at the UN migration agency, tweeted on Friday.
Abdiker further said that the people on the boat were dumped into the sea and “forced to swim to shore” as they approached Yemen's Shabwa province from Somalia.
No bodies have been recovered.
IOM spokesman Joel Millman said nearly 600 Ethiopian refugees, men and women, were aboard the ships. The figure is an unusually large number of refugees to arrive off the Yemeni province at one time.
According to International Organization for Migration figures, some 87,000 people risked their lives trying to reach Yemen from the Horn of Africa by boat in 2017.
At least 30 African refugees drowned when their boat capsized off the coast of war-torn Yemen last month with reports that their smugglers opened fire on those on board.
Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a bloody military campaign early in 2015 and have, ever since, been ceaselessly pounding the country in an attempt to reinstall Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Yemen’s former president and a staunch ally of Riyadh, and to crush the Houthi Ansarullah movement. The Saudi-led coalition has also maintained an embargo on the country where, so far, at least 13,600 civilians have been reportedly killed.
Yemen’s lawless southern regions, which are mostly controlled by militants loyal to Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s resigned president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, have become a fertile ground for smugglers who vow to transfer refugees from the region to wealthier Arab states in the Persian Gulf.
However, most of those smugglers leave refugees at sea as they fear being arrested by militants or Saudi Arabia’s military forces.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Exploited and Extorted, 30 Ethiopians and Somalis Drown While Trying to Return Home From Yemen -

At least 30 African migrants and refugees drowned off Yemen this week after their overcrowded vessel capsized during a clash with smugglers trying to extort them for more money, the United Nations said Friday.
The mass drowning, in the Gulf of Aden, which separates war-ravaged Yemen from the destitute Horn of Africa, punctuated the lethal hazards facing migrants and refugees in an especially insecure part of the world.
The victims, Somalis and Ethiopians who had originally sought temporary refuge in Yemen, were en route back toward their home countries — a telling barometer of Yemen’s descent into deprivation during its long civil war.
“These migrants, as far as we can tell, are folks who have been in limbo inside Yemen for some time,” said Joel A. Millman, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, a United Nations agency. “Because of the incredibly difficult conditions of Yemen, people get fed up.”
In a statement, the agency said the mass drowning happened on Tuesday, after a boat packed with at least 152 people — 101 Ethiopians and 51 Somalis — departed Yemen’s Al Buraiqa coast for Djibouti, a tiny African nation across the Gulf of Aden.
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“The vessel is believed to have been operated by unscrupulous smugglers who were attempting to take refugees and migrants to Djibouti, while also trying to extort more money from these refugees and migrants,” the statement said. “The boat capsized amid reports of gunfire being used against the passengers.”
African migrants waited to board a boat in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen, before being deported to Somalia in 2016. CreditSaleh Al-Obeidi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The statement said the agency and its partners were working to learn more about the episode and were providing emergency assistance to survivors.
Ravaged by successive droughts, hunger and disease, the Horn of Africa is a major source of migration by people desperate for a better life.
Despite the war in Yemen, more than 87,000 migrants and refugees risked their lives last year seeking to reach the country by boat from the Horn of Africa, the agency said. At least 111 deaths were reported in 2017, and 109 in 2016.
The victims last year included at least 50 passengers from Somalia and Ethiopia bound for Yemen, who were thrown into the sea by traffickers as their boat neared the coast.
Many migrants see Yemen as a transit point for travel to Saudi Arabia and other affluent Persian Gulf countries where they can find work.
But Yemen also has become a departure point in the reverse route for migrants deported from Saudi Arabia. About 100,000 migrants from Ethiopia left Saudi Arabia last year, either voluntarily or through deportation, including some who returned via Yemen.
The nearly three-year-old war in Yemen, pitting Houthi insurgents against a Saudi-backed military coalition, also has contributed to a reverse migration back to Africa. Millions of Yemenis are facing acute hunger and disease, including a cholera epidemic that has sickened roughly 1 million people.
Jeffrey Labovitz, the agency’s regional director in Nairobi, said many migrants in Yemen are enduring “dire and vulnerable situations in a country at war, which is also suffering from large-scale food shortages.”