Friday, 15 January 2021

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Not all boats head for Europe

Yemen UNHCR Photo

21 October 2014 – The UN refugee agency reported with a total of 215 deaths a sharp increase over 2014 in the number of migrants and asylum-seekers losing their lives in attempts to get to Yemen, mainly from the Horn of Africa. This number shockingly exceeds the combined total for 2011, 2012 and 2013 of 179.

The latest deaths come amidst a stark increase in the number of new arrivals to Yemen by boat in September. At 12,768, it marks the single biggest month for arrivals since current records began to be kept in 2002. Most of the migrants are Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans.

Factors behind the surge are believed to include on-going drought in South-Central Somalia, as well as the combined effects of conflict, poverty, insecurity, and lack of livelihood opportunities in countries of origin.

The boats may not be heading for Europe, but the story sadly remains the same: boats crossing to Yemen are often dangerously overcrowded, and smugglers have reportedly thrown passengers overboard to prevent capsizing or avoid detection. Search-and-rescue officials say the practice has resulted in hundreds of undocumented casualties in recent years.

More danger ahead

And even if migrants and asylum-seekers arrive, often exhausted and dehydrated on Yemen's coast, their perilous journey isn’t over yet as they risk being badly exploited by criminal gangs and the Yemeni military.

According to the International Organisation of Migration and the groundbreaking study Desperate Choices (2012), criminal networks extend across the Yemeni borders, through Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Saudi Arabia.

Yemen is the only country in the Arabian Peninsula that is signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. It currently hosts 246,000 refugees, including over 230,000 Somalis and smaller numbers of Ethiopians, Eritreans, Iraqis and Syrians.

In addition, there are more than 334,000 internally displaced Yemeni citizens who were either forced from their homes as a result of recent conflicts or living in longer-term displacement.

Source: UNHCR - The UN Refugee Agency

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