UNHCR & WHO offer services to 49,000 refugees in Yemen [Archives:2004/749/Local News]

June 24 2004

By Hassan Al-Zaidi
Yemen Times Staff

Dr. Khalid Faqsa , the senior legal consultant at UNHCR in a statement to Yemen Times shed more light on the activities of UNHCR, following the session held on June 18, 2004.
This session is the fourth session in two years, in the course of which more 700 government employees in the fields of security and law have developed better understandings of the situation of refugees. Lectures were performed in 9 governorates over the course of 2 years. All government employees have benefited from this course, involving security officers, and judges.
This is the second session for journalists to explain Yemeni obligations and Yemen's international commitments to refugees as a signatory of the 1951 Agreement and the 1967 Protocols related to refugees and their relations to human rights.
The other aim is to clarify the misunderstandings and confusion concerning who is considered a refugee and who is an immigrant. Moreover, there are accusations that some refugees carry out some illegal activities including committing crimes. In other words, there are some bad refugees.
This session is intended to explain the role of the Yemeni government and its humanitarian stance on granting refugee status. It will also clarify some of the facts about the subject of granting refugee status and other problems in order to find practical solutions to them. It is also intended to point out that a refugee is generally a person who has encountered injustices and it is not fair to accuse him of committing crimes without any solid evidence.
The UNHCR in cooperation with the National Subcommittee for Refugee Affairs (NSCRA), in 13 months during 2002-2003, visited 12 major cities in 11 governorates of the Republic of Yemen. 47,000 refugees were registered, most of them were from Somalia, in addition to 2200 from 15 other countries including Ethiopia, Iraq, and Sudan. We know that about 11 to 13 thousand Somali refugees come to Yemen every year, but many of them move on to other nearby countries. The UNHCR believes that there are 49 thousand new refugees, but the total number of the actual refugees would not exceed 60 thousand, based on the definition of the 1951 agreement. We have to realize also that the other thousands of refugees according to the government's new registration could not categorized as refugees, but rather immigrants from the Horn of Africa.
The UNHCR reopened its offices in 1991 following the Yemeni government's request in order to assist in the sheltering of the large number of so-called refugees on the behalf of the international community escaping from the Somalia civil war and from other 16 other nationalities.
Most of the refugees have the choice to stay in camps or to seek better living opportunities in urban cities. There are 36 thousands refugees living in urban areas and 11 thousand refugees living inside “Kharaz” camp alone. UNHCR provides sheltering tents, food, education and health care to them. “Kharaz” camp is considered an advanced camp comparable to other neighboring camps to Yemen. UNHCR also assists the close villages to the camp in supplying them with clean drinking water, free medical treatment at the camp's dispensary while WHO provides food to the refugees inside the camp only.
UNHCR continues to cooperate with Sana'a University and the Ministry of Human Rights in order to improve the living conditions of refugees, in fields such as education and health. This is part of the efforts of the Yemeni government to understand the situations of refugees in Yemen.