Migrants at risk of being stranded in war-torn Yemen

Despite the dire humanitarian situation in war-torn Yemen, the number of migrants entering the country has sky-rocketed. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that by the end of the year, around 150,000 migrants will have arrived in Yemen in 2018, which marks a 50% rise in arrivals since last year.

Most of these migrants hope to travel through Yemen on their way to the Gulf states where they expect to find better job opportunities. But the ongoing civil conflict is complicating their plans and making them particularly vulnerable to violence and exploitation.

Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies, has underlined the risk migrants face of becoming stranded in the war-zone: “These migrants dream of a better life for themselves and their families, they seek work, security and new opportunities […] Instead, they face risk and abuse on the way, including human trafficking. Most who make it to Yemen then find themselves stuck in a conflict, exposed to further violence and danger.”

IOM has also pointed out that one in five of the migrants arriving in Yemen are minors and that many of them are unaccompanied.

The journey across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen is now one of the busiest sea routes for irregular migration, surpassing the Mediterranean. But even if migrants succeed in crossing the Gulf of Aden, they continue to face high levels of danger in Yemen. Since civil war broke out in 2014, the country has been shaken by warring factions, leaving its population on the brink of famine.

Many of the migrants who have arrived in Yemen in 2018 – 92% of which are from Ethiopia –have been deceived by human smugglers, according to IOM spokesperson, Joel Millman. He warned that smugglers are assuring migrants that the Yemeni authorities are “way too preoccupied with the civil unrest…to properly monitor borders.” But on arrival, migrants are facing a different situation. Millman says: “There are minefields to cross, there are exchanges of gunfire.”

In 2017, 3,000 of these stranded migrants received assistance from IOM to return to their home country.

TMP – 20/12/2018

Photo: Alixandra Fazzina/ UNHCR. Migrants in Somalia waiting for boats that will take them to Yemen.