Somali refugees in Yemen on the rise [Archives:2008/1197/Local News]

October 9 2008

Khaled Al-Hilaly
SANA'A, 8 Oct. ) Due to climate change, the continuing conflict in Somalia and the innovative use of smuggling routes from Somalia to Yemen and across the Red Sea from Djibouti, the number of people arriving on the coast of Yemen after being smuggled across the treacherous Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa has more than doubled this year.

As the situation in Somalia becomes increasingly desperate, many Somalis are literally dying to get to Yemen, a signatory to the international convention on refugees' rights.

According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), more than 547 boats carrying about 25,000 African refugees have arrived at Yemeni shores since the beginning of this year, of which about 16,000 are from Somalia.

According to UNHCR estimates, there are currently 129,000 refugees in Yemen.

Refugees use more than 13 coastal access points to arrive in Yemen. These entries spread along the Yemeni coastal provinces of Shabwa, Taiz, Hadramout, Abyan, Lahj and Aden.

Desperate to flee war-ravaged Somalia, each would-be immigrant pays smugglers between 70 and 200 dollars for the hazardous journey to Yemen. The journey may end with refugees drowning or killed by the smugglers. From January to August 2008, 69 Somalis and 180 Ethiopian drowned, according to the UNHCR.

UNHCR records show daily trips arriving to the Yemeni coast from Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia. More than 177 people have died at sea during the last 8 months and 225 have been recorded missing.

Somalis refugees arriving in Yemen are given automatic political asylum.

They are provided with emergency medical care, registered by the UN and sent to Kharaz refugee camp in Lahj. Some try to find jobs or cross the border to Saudi Arabia.

According to the Yemeni Interior Ministry' media center, 267 Somalis, including 72 women and 2 children, have arrived on Ahwar coast this week alone. Security authorities have buried the bodies of 3 Somali refugees.

The area of Dubab in Taiz governorate also received 19 Somali refugees, 4 of them women, last Sunday who were sent to Kharaz camp in Lahj province. Yemeni coastal provinces Hadramout, Shabwa, Abyan and Taiz have received 200 to 300 Somali refuges on a daily basis since the beginning of last September, the media center noted.

International agencies, including the UNHCR, have joined Yemen in the call for increased international attention and resources to support the needs of those making the crossing and to establish a strategy for reducing the number of persons making the hazardous the journey.