SANAA, 17 January 2010 (Somalilandpress) – The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) received 77,802 new arrivals from the Horn of Africa in 2009, a 55 percent increase over 2008 and the first time Somalis were not the majority nationality, the agency’s external relations officer Rocco Nuri told IRIN in Sanaa on 16 January.

The biggest change over 2008, he said, was that the number of Ethiopians making the perilous boat journey across the Gulf of Aden more than doubled to 44,814, while 32,988 Somalis reached Yemen’s shores.

“There are various push factors behind the increasing number of Ethiopians, such as conflict, famine, drought and lack of job opportunities,” Nuri said.

He added that the global financial crisis and subsequent rise in commodity prices “also played a role in pushing more people to leave their countries in search of better opportunities”.

Over 700,000 immigrants

There are more than 700,000 African immigrants in Yemen, the majority of whom are Somalis, deputy foreign minister Ali Muthan told a symposium in Sanaa on 12 January at the launch of a new initiative entitled ‘Supporting Yemeni Government and Civil Society to Meet Migration Challenges’.

He said that “out of the total number of African immigrants in Yemen, only 200,000 have refugee status”.

“The government has made tireless efforts to reduce the influx of Africans into its territory through contributing to enhancing stability and security in Somaliland,” Muthan said.

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According to UNHCR, all Somalis arriving in Yemen are granted prima facie refugee status while non-Somalis wanting to claim asylum are required to apply at a UNHCR office.

Hazardous journey

For those escaping war, violence and persecution, the hazardous journey to East African ports and then across the Gulf of Aden in the hands of ruthless people smugglers only adds to their suffering, according to UNHCR officials.

“They walk sometimes for days or travel in risky conditions prior to reaching one of the main departure points in Somalia and Djibouti. Once a deal with smugglers is made, they are put on over-packed, rickety boats and are likely to be subjected to psychological and physical violence at the hands of smugglers, as well as being left with no water and food for days under a blistering sun,” Nuri told IRIN.

He added that smugglers often beat passengers to prevent them from moving and putting their small boats at risk of capsizing. Sometimes people were forced to jump overboard. “When a boat capsizes, many drown and the likelihood of finding the missing alive is very low,” he said.

According to UNHCR, at least 309 people drowned or did not survive the trip in 2009. However, this was less than half the 590 that died in 2008.

Source: IRIN


  1. Yemen at the present times faces the great challenges of the absorbtion of hundereds of thousands of Africans as a result of regional political,economic and social developments that can be defined as a "Great Human Crisis" that could be compared to such nations as Haiti,Indonesia and to a less extent Southern Europe in the post Yugoslav era. The International community should come or be presented as to the facts of high cost to the national entity as Yemen in hosting an African Population of great numbers with a note to national capacity and resources. The World Bank must be called for help. The IMF must be called to consider Yemen in It's agenda and capacity. The United Nations may also consider greater Budget for the new population in Yemen. Individual Nations of Great resources must also increase their contribtions. The decades long instablity of the Horn of Africa has put Yemen in the spotlight of human movement and as the country currently batteles local insurgency,all international orgnizations and International diplomacy should come to the aid of Yemen.