Over 300 stranded Ethiopian migrants airlifted from Yemen

At least 322 Ethiopian migrants stranded in Yemen flew home on 29 and 30 January 2019, according to the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The returns were organised in cooperation between the International Organisation for migration (IOM), the government of Yemen and the government of Ethiopia.

More than a quarter of those passengers were minors, according to IOM. Voluntary humanitarian returns organised by the UN migration agency had been suspended since the start of the Yemen conflict in 2015 until they resumed in late November last year.  In 2018, IOM assisted 668 Ethiopian migrants to return to Ethiopia.

Most of the migrants reaching Yemen are fleeing poverty and limited economic opportunities. Some are on route to gulf countries in the hope of finding jobs. Others plan to travel north, before crossing the Red Sea to Port Sudan, onward to Egypt and eventually across the Mediterranean to Europe. However, upon arrival in Yemen, most migrants discover they are unable to continue the journey due to the ongoing conflict in the country, which has restricted land routes.

IOM reported that Yemen received approximately 150,000 refugees in 2018, far exceeding the 107,000 that arrived in Europe.

“A significant portion of the new arrivals are unaware of the severity of the situation in Yemen or the distance they will have to transit. They have found themselves stranded in a conflict-stricken country without access to basic needs and subjected to multiple forms of abuse, exploitation and violence,” said David Derthick, Chief of Mission in IOM Yemen.

“There are currently limited pathways for migrants to return home from Yemen.”

Given restrictions on movement caused by the conflict, transporting migrants out of Yemen is especially challenging. During the suspension of humanitarian airlifts, IOM transported migrants on chartered boats across the Gulf of Aden. However, unpredictable sea conditions often caused delays or restrictions of movement forcing boats to return to the port Al-Hudaydah.

The agency aims to support 3,000 migrants with voluntary humanitarian returns in 2019.

TMP – 13/02/2019

Photo: bmszealand/Shutterstock. Photo caption: Fishing boats off the coast of Aden, Yemen