Yemeni PM calls rich countries to open its borders to African refugees OIC donates to African refugees in Yemen [Archives:2007/1106/Local News]

November 26 2007

SANA'A, Nov. 25 ) While United Nations (UN) agencies continue distributing aid to Somali citizens who fled their country due to civil war, Yemeni Parliament members (MPs) called for neighboring countries to open their borders for the African refugees.

On Saturday, MP Abdul-Aziz Jabbari requested that rich neighboring countries assist Yemen in accepting African refugees and asked the government of Yemen to install refugee camps., the website for the ruling party, quoted Jabbari as saying “the refugees should not be allowed to leave camps except in certain cases due to their causing security problems.”

MP Bassam al-Shater, member of the external committee participating with the Committee of Human Rights in preparation of a report on the refugees, confirmed that in case African refugees head for the Gulf states, they will be directly deported to Yemen because there is no agreement signed between those states and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as is the case with Yemen

Yemen is the only signatory state in the Arab Peninsula for receiving refugees.

The call of the Parliament members came two days after the official Yemeni media reported that sixty-five people, including three children, drowned in the Gulf of Aden while trying to cross from Somalia to Yemen. About 15 others swam to safety after a vessel carrying the migrants sank close to Aden, said the Saba news agency, adding that the survivors were Somali nationals who were directed to a refugee camp in Lahj, north of Aden.

According to an AP reporter, Yemeni fishermen who saw floating bodies reported the incident to the army, which spearheaded the rescue mission and body recovery operation. The Yemeni navy and local fishermen pulled 50 bodies from the sea, while 15 bodies were found on the beach.

The dead migrants were buried in a mass grave, according to residents who witnessed the burial.

According to the UN, more than 400 Somalis perished while attempting to sail to Yemen in the Gulf of Aden this year alone. Almost 500 are still missing.

Strife between the interim government and Islamic groups have pushed impoverished Somalis to try their fortunes in neighboring Yemen via a risky sea journey.

Early this month, Yemen discovered 40 dead Somalis on the shores of Abyan. They were thrown overboard by human trafficking syndicates preying on a desire by poor Africans for a better life.

In related news, The UN World Food Program (WFP) announced on Sunday a first-ever contribution from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) of $300,000 to support the UN food agency's work in Somalia, Benin and Yemen.

The donation, which is from the OIC's Islamic Solidarity Fund, includes $200,000 for Somalia, $50,000 for Benin and $50,000 to assist Somali refugees in Yemen.

Ghazi Bakhsh, Executive Director of the OIC Islamic Solidarity Fund, said that they will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding on future cooperation with the UN food agency.

“We are keen on cooperating with UN organizations and are in the process of signing a Global Framework Agreement with WFP that would provide the basis for our future humanitarian assistance in the Islamic world.” Bakhsh said.

WFP Somalia Country Director Peter Goossens said the $200,000 for Somalia would help ease pressure on WFP food supplies.

WFP aims to feed a total of 1.2 million people in Somalia in 2007. This includes people who fled their homes in Mogadishu during recent fighting and farming families short of food in the Middle and Lower Shabelle regions in the south of the country because of rain shortfalls, insecurity and an influx of displaced people.

“We thank the OIC for this donation, which is very timely, especially after our appeal for more funds. We hope other donors can do the same and help us avoid a gap in our food assistance,” Goossens said.

In addition to its operations in Somalia, the WFP has been providing assistance to Somali refugees in Yemen since 1992. Its current operation ) valued at about $3.6 million ) provides some 34,000 Somali refugees, including women, children and new arrivals, with a total of 6,346 metric tons of food.

“We appreciate this generous contribution from OIC's Islamic Solidarity Fund, especially since it comes at a critical time, when the increasing number of refugees arriving in Yemen has put great pressure on the limited resources of both the Yemeni Government and WFP,” said WFP Yemen Country Director Mohamed El-Kouhene.

The $50,000 donation to Benin comes at a key moment with people suffering from devastating floods. The WFP already provides daily meals for 60,000 pupils across the country. The WFP also assists 90,000 internally displaced people and refugees in Benin and Togo, as well as 24,000 people living with HIV/AIDS.

“We welcome this donation, which will help WFP purchase some of the food aimed at feeding pupils in 400 schools,” said Jacques Roy, WFP representative in Benin.