Ethiopian refugees demand end to their plight [Archives:2004/711/Front Page]

February 12 2004

Over 200 Ethiopian refugees in Yemen staged a sit-in at the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) headquarters last Tuesday in Sana'a to demand an end to their plight and protested against what they claim are “unjust responses from the UNHCR to their problems.”
The protestors, who were mostly former members of the Ethiopian Naval, told Yemen Times that they demand an end to their plight since 1991. They said they need to be re-integrated into the Yemeni society or resettled in any other country.
According to the law, they can even go back home but they said they could not do that as they may face imprisonment.
In a press release submitted during the sit-in, the protestors claimed that they were promised to have something done to get them settled in Yemen and they claim that settlement means they would be entitled to citizenship according to the law.
They said it could only happen when the Yemeni authorities pass a law for refugees. However, we can not wait until this law is issued,” Yassin Mohammed, one of the protestors said.
The protestors said they are facing hard times and their living condition is going from bad to worse.
The refugees said they can no longer tolerate the situation. “We can no longer endure the contempt and ridicule we are facing,” adding that one of their friends died because he could not pay for his medical treatment. “He needed only YR 50,000; he sought help but in vain,” they said.
The UNHCR however rejects the claims suggesting that the international organization is not fulfilling its duties properly and said that the protestors want to be resettled in countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia and other developed countries; a desire, the UNHCR says, that cannot be met easily as such resettlements are bounded by regulations and decisions taken by those countries, and especially as most of those refugees were affiliated to socialist political or military movement that are not welcomed in many countries.
However, the UNHCR officials promised to deliver a complete legal response to the claims of the protestors in which it will confirm that it is operating within the law and that it is carrying out its duties and fulfilling its responsibilities in the best way possible.
Yemen is facing a lot of economic and security problems due to the often massive flow of refugees from the African Horn countries.