Despite raging conflict, scores of refugees continue to arrive in Yemen by sea – UN

Ethiopian and Somali refugees at the Mayfa’a reception centre in Yemen. Photo: UNHCR/J. Björgvinsson

27 October 2015 – The ongoing conflict and the widening humanitarian crisis in Yemen has not deterred nearly 70,000 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants to reach the country by sea causing the Yemini population to ‘bear the brunt,’ said the United Nations refugee agency today.

These desperate people, mainly from Somalia and Ethiopia, have continued to arrive at the Yemeni shores even after the conflict erupted in the Middle Eastern country in March, Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.

The latest UNHCR estimates indicate that Yemen is currently hosting 264,615 refugees, of which 250,260 are Somali.

Mr. Edwards warned that travelling to Yemen, especially through sea routes, is extremely dangerous, as 88 deaths at sea have been recorded this year between the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

He added that about three weeks ago, a boat with 68 migrants and refugees capsized in the Arabian Sea, killing 35.

Moreover, he continued, the reception facilities for those reaching Yemen via the Red Sea have been suspended after a fatal attack destroyed a village hosting new arrivals in Bab el Mandab, resulting in the death of two partner agency staffers.

However, Mr. Edwards said that UNHCR and its partners are providing shelter, food and medical care in the Mayfa’a reception centre for those arriving via the Arabian Sea coast.

According to UNHCR, movements to Yemen have shifted to the Arabian Sea coast where people believe the situation is calmer, which has resulted in over 10,000 new arrivals in September, a 50 per cent increase on August, and over 10,000 in October.

UNHCR and its partners have been able to provide reception and medical services to those arriving to the Arabian Sea coast.

Alternatively, UNHCR reports that over 121,000 people have fled Yemen to neighbouring countries since March.

Further, the UN agency is also alarmed at the numbers of displaced Yemenis are continuously rising and according to a displacement tracking mechanism developed by UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) has reached a record-high of 2,305,048 people.

This figure, according to the UN agency, has gone up from 545,719 individuals in mid-May illustrating that currently, close to 1 out of 10 Yemenis seek refuge elsewhere in the country as a result of on-going conflict or lack of basic services and a minimum of livelihood opportunities.

“UNHCR calls on all parties to the conflict to protect the lives and rights of civilians, including refugees and the internally displaced,” said Mr. Edwards. “Refugees have lost their livelihoods and many are again uprooted as they move to other parts of the country,” he added.

Mr. Edwards said that so far UNHCR has provided emergency relief items to 22,883 IDP families (147,386 individuals) since the end of March, but noted that access to the affected populations still remains a key concern as many of those in dire need remain in areas cut-off due to conflict.

Lastly, he added that the UN refugee agency is monitoring the conditions of displaced people with specific needs such as women, children, older persons and those with medical conditions. Through regular assessments it is able to target the delivery of its protection services to those with critical needs.

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