What Emigrants Say at the Yemeni Emigrants’ First National Conference [Archives:1999/21/Reportage]

May 24 1999

During 15-17 May, 1999, the Yemeni Emigrants’ First National Conference was held in Sanaa. A total of nearly 300 emigrants from roughly 30 countries participated in the delivberations. 
The thrust of the talks were three-fold: 
— To find solutions to the problems Yemeni emigrants and their families face at the hands of Yemeni bureaucracy whenthey return; 
— To help emigrants overcome difficulties which arise from instability or change in their host socities; and 
— To encourage Yemeni emigrants abroad invest in Yemen and contribute to its development. 
At the end of the conference, and once the dust settled, Yemen Times went to some key participants and asked them about their impressions of what was achieved. 
Ahlam Al-Mutawakkel and Yasser Mohammed report. 
1. Abdullah Bin Hatem, is a Yemeni originally from Hadrahmaut, now living in Indonesia. 
He is a businessman. 
“The Yemeni exodus to Indonesia dates back to 600 years. The number of emigrants of Yemeni origin in Indonesia today is about to 5.4 million, many of whom had taken part in the liberation of Indonesia from European colonial powers.” 
Speaking about the conference, Bin Hatem says: ” This meeting was a wonderful opportunity to get closely acquainted with Yemen. The stories we have been hearing (about political suppression and discrimination) are quite unreal.”Bin Hatem says he is exploring investment options in Yemen, and will invite and encourage acquaintances and friends in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to invest in Yemen. 
“The Yemeni community in Indonesia is split over the formation of a united Yemeni bloc,” he laments implying it is one of the results of the political divisions in Yemen. 
2. Hizam Naji is originally from Ibb governorate. He is the head of the Yemeni community in Buffalo NY, USA. He indicated some 5000 Yemeni emigrants live in Buffalo, NY, USA.  
“Most of these emigrants originally worked in the steel and automotive industries. The present generation has steadily shifted to independent enterprises, e.g. shops, restaurants, real estate, travel agents, etc. 
“Today the Yemeni community in Buffalo plays an important role in all political, social, culture and sport fields . It also keeps a good level of communication with the other Arab and Muslim communities.” 
He summarized their needs in the following: 
— A fully evolved Islamic School, so they look forward to assistance from the Yemeni government; 
— There is need for a qualified religious scholar or Imam. 
He asked the Ministry of Emigrants Affairs to carry out regular field visits to encourage emigrants’ investment in their homeland, and to develop stronger attachment. 
Abdullah A. Al-Baity is originally from Lahej Governorate. He is the Head of the Yemeni Community in Tanzania. 
Mr. Al-Baity is very optimistic about the outcome of the conference. “The Tanzanian Government offers all kinds of investment incentives to us. We hope to have the same at home. Our wealth is for our children and our country,” he said. 
“We strongly protested the complications created over the issuance of IDs and passports. If simple documents like those are not available, then how can we implement investment projects that could help the country. We also require serious guarantees and security for our hard earned income. We don’t want to end up in court-rooms and corridors of officials fighting cases.” he added. 
There are about 70,000 Yemeni emigrants in Tanzania. 
Yousuf Ba-Ramazan, from Hadhramaut, now lives in India.  
He has plans to come and invest in Yemen, “I am thinking of setting up either an ultra-modern university and a hospital.”He says there are more than 200,000 Yemenis living in India. “They work in the government, businesses and various other jobs. The major obstacle we face is the identity documents. We don’t have Yemeni ID cards and passports and the authorities have not tried to help us. Now after the Interior Minister promised to provide ID cards, and solve the emigrants’ problems, we can come back to our country and help in building a strong Yemen.” he said. 
Mohammed Saleh Al-Shibah, is originally from Redaa, Al-Baidha. He is the head of the Yemeni community in Liverpool, Britain. 
He summarized the problems they face as follows : 
1. We don’t have professional teachers for Arabic, and religion. 
2. Our children are influenced by Western life style and culture. Some of this is good, but some of it creates a huge gap in the parent-child relationship. 
3. The community in general feels that it is neglected by the Yemeni authorities and complicates their lives. For example, emigrants and their families have a hard time getting passports and ID cards, they suffer from unfriendly attitude by the embassy staff, and they lack adeqaute communication means with the homeland. 
Ahmed Bader, is originally from Taiz. He now lives in the United Arab Emirates. 
“Yemenis who live in the Emirates enjoy many facilities, that they may not be able to enjoy back home. The UAE gives Yemenis many scholarships in the military colleges and universities. There are complications and favoritism is applying for these scholarships,” said Mr. Bader. 
“We need a school for our children, and we are ready to build one. We want the Yemeni government to approach the UAE government to sign a protocol so that we can build the school. We also hope that Yemeni regulations will ease our entry to Yemen with our vehicles to visit our relatives and spend the holidays.” 
Hazzaa Mohammed Baggash, originally from Taiz, now lives in France. 
He says, “The Yemeni community here is quite small. We are about 113 families living in different parts of France. Compared with our brethren in Africa or southeast Asia, we really don’t have many problems. Our main problem is that we can’t travel to the motherland quite often, because of the high expenditures involved, i.e., cost of tickets, specially for big families.”