YEMEN: Influx of African arrivals in June
The Somali consul in the port city of Aden, southern Yemen, said hundreds of African migrants crossed the Gulf of Aden to Yemen in June in search of a better life in Saudi Arabia despite a high risk of death at sea or at the hands of ruthless smugglers.
“They made the perilous sea journey despite rough seas. The number of arrivals registered by the UN Refugee Agency [UNHCR] was over 700, while those who were not registered stood at about 350,” Hussein Hajji, the Somali consul, told IRIN.
According to him, Somalis made up 70 percent of the new arrivals and the rest were Ethiopians.
According to a report released in June by international aid organisation Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), by the end of May 2008 over 20,000 Africans had arrived on Yemen’s shores, more than double the number for the same period in 2007. The report said almost 400 of them were missing or dead.
Hajji attributed the higher figures for 2008 to the increasing numbers of refugees at the Somali port city of Bossaso. “The harsh conditions they endure [in Somalia] make them resort to smugglers. They have no choice other than risking their lives by making dangerous sea journeys to Yemen,” he said, adding that there were no major incidents upon their arrivals during June.
Hajji further noted that smugglers had reportedly raised the costs of the journeys from Bossaso to Yemen from US$70 per person to $250 because of summer sea conditions being worse.
Over 600 Somalis presumed dead
The Somali consul said the majority of the African migrants come to Yemen with the ultimate aim of going to one of the Gulf countries, namely Saudi Arabia, to find jobs. “Yemen is not the real destination for 85 percent of the new arrivals. They stay in Yemen for about six months and do odd jobs to collect money for journeys to Saudi Arabia,” he said.
According to Hajji, vulnerable Africans trying to get into Saudi Arabia face the risk of sexual abuse, violence and even death at the hands of unscrupulous smugglers.
“Over the past four years, over 600 Somalis have gone missing on the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia and are presumed dead. This is more worrying for us,” he said.
He added the vast majority of Africans trying to get into Saudi Arabia from Yemen were unsuccessful as they were arrested and deported by Saudi authorities, though this did not deter many from trying again and again. “Someone told me he tried to get into Saudi Arabia eight times after coming to Yemen by sea. But he was deported each time by the Saudi authorities,” Hajji said.