African migrants stuck in Yemen yearn to go home

April 24, 2012 9:20 am


The migrants came through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden on smugglers boats/XINHUA
HARADH, Apr 24 – Thousands of Ethiopian migrants who are stranded in Haradh city along the Yemeni-Saudi border have expressed an eagerness to return home.

The Ethiopian migrants at the Yemeni-Saudi border live a difficult life with only one hope: to get back to their homes after their dreams of living a better life in the oil-rich Saudi Arabia has faded.

The migrants who came to Yemen through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden on smugglers boats arrived at Haradh hoping to reach the oil-rich Arab Gulf countries. But Saudi Arabia have recently tightened its borders with Yemen to prevent African migrants from reaching its lands.

For at least three years, thousands of Somalis and Ethiopians have arrived annually in Yemen fleeing either hunger and poverty or persecution and war. Most of them transit from the Bosasso area in eastern Somalia, crossing the Gulf of Aden in smugglers’ tiny fishing boats.

Now stranded in Haradh, they depend on the limited assistance from a transit center run by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Unable to continue their journey into the Gulf countries due to tightened border controls by the Saudi authorities or to return home without any resources, migrants arriving from the Horn of Africa frequently find themselves stranded in Haradh without adequate food, shelter and water.

“I just arrived here. I’m not registered, just arrived. And my friends here also want to register my name for evacuation to our country.”

A total of 103,154 new arrivals were registered in 2011, double the number of the previous year. In February alone, approximately 12,454 new arrivals were registered, of whom 10,496 were from Ethiopia.

Many of the migrants on the Yemeni-Saudi border suffer from fatigue, wounds and other signs of maltreatment as well as infectious diseases.

The living conditions for the migrants in Haradh are worsening due to the increasing number of new arrivals and depleted resources. Tensions are also rising between the migrants and the local community, the IOM said in a recent statement.

“We have very limited funds, so yes there are thousands still waiting at the departure centre to be sent home. IOM is doing everything it can to send every single migrant who is willing to go back home. This is a humanitarian organisation, it depends on donors.”

Many migrants are reportedly suffering from diarrhea, malaria, respiratory infections and snake bites from sleeping in the open. Others are suffering from broken limbs, gunshot wounds and other signs of maltreatment by human traffickers and smugglers.

The majority of the migrants arriving in Haradh are exhausted by their long trek north towards Saudi Arabia after having survived the perils of their journey across the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea and a conflict-ridden Yemen.

“We hope we are able to evacuate them all, but when we evacuate, for example 1,000 people, around 2,000 arrive here in the next month. The registration continues every day. We register between 100 to 150 new arrivals every day, and three months later the number reaches 300.”


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