Smuggling in Yemen [Archives:2006/908/Business & Economy]

January 2 2006

Mahyoub Al-Kamaly
The Ministry of Industry and Trade in Yemen has lately disclosed that large quantities of goods spread in markets were smuggled illegally into the country. Consequently this exposes the people to various dangers such as expired goods or those invalid for human consumption. Quality assurance officers at the Ministry Industry informed the Yemen Times that the Ministry, in cooperation with a number of concerned authorities, is currently studying a number of policies to target the problem during 2006. They revealed that 30% of the total goods available in the local market are smuggled, among which are some medicines.

The Quality officials added that the policies the Ministry intends to carry out during 2006 include the establishment of new monitoring mechanisms to supervise the countries boarders across which the goods are thought to be smuggled. The policies include supervising the available goods in the local markets with the help of citizens and some merchants.

The latest information on smuggling activities was that border security forces on Saudi-Yemeni borders had foiled a smuggling operation of six bazooka launchers and eleven bombs. The smugglers tried to bring them into the country a few days ago. Smuggling mafias are greatly active and increasing on the Yemeni Saudi border areas, and even women take part in such operations. Various methods are used in smuggling operations using domestic animals like donkeys, sheep, goats and other animals for carrying smuggled items. The Saudi border security in Najran confirmed that they had seized large quantities of wires used in blasting and dynamites in different boarder areas, in addition to short-range shoulder-mounted bazookas.

Moreover, Saudi border guard patrols had earlier found quantities of liquors in areas under control authority of Lijam and Al-Sah border stations. The smugglers seemed to abandon the items there for fear of being caught. Commander of border guards in Saqam sector general Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Zahrani confirmed that the boarder guards could not arrest the smugglers who had fled the area after they sensed that their plan was discovered.

Smuggling of oil products

Yemen has recently announced that smuggling mafias are smuggling oil products from Yemen to neighboring countries in the region of the Horn of Africa. The increase in fuel prices that had taken place July 2005 aimed at curbing smuggle of subsidized oil products, among other purposes. Before this price hike, smuggling of oil products had become a phenomenon exhausting millions of dollars from the state treasury. Now the government has to monitor fuel stations and other providers of oil products and ensure products are not being smuggled outside the country. The Ministry of Industry is also discussing with relevant authorities at the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Oil plans to activate the role of law and the issuing of severe punishments against violating fuel stations owners.

The penalties suggested range from fines and temporary closure of the fuel stations to canceling their licenses and permanent closure and detention. Measures cover oil tankers, vehicles and ships in which oil products are transported.

Smuggling of children

A more dangerous aspect of smuggling is that of Yemeni children, some of who are no more than seven years old. Boys and girls are smuggled across the Saudi borders with their parents consent. The smuggled children are generally of poor families with large members. The families hope that their children through getting into the Saudi territories would be able to get small jobs and send their families money. In many times the children land up as beggars or other petty work. However, thousands of such children are regularly captured by Suadi authorities and repatriated back to Yemen. Smuggling of children is attributed to the degrading poverty Yemenis are living in, especially the residents of the governorate of Haja near the borders of Saudi Arabia.

A study by the Yemeni Center for Social Studies pointed out that the growing phenomenon of smuggling children represents an indirect outcome of the Gulf war of 1991. The study emphasized that “because of the Yemeni government opposition of Saudi Arabia cooperation with the United States of America and its allies” to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, Riyadh had expelled numerous Yemeni workers from their jobs. And since then it has become difficult to obtain jobs in Saudi Arabia in legal ways.

What aggravates the problem, according to UNICEF, is that the Yemeni law does not directly include human smuggling and consequently when children smugglers are caught they could be immediately released. Therefore the first task would be to amend the concerned laws. In addition to the abasing poverty is among the major causes of children smuggling, the Yemeni fragile education system is another cause. Although theoretically, education in Yemen is free and compulsory since the age of six, the reality is completely the opposite.