More than 46,000 people cross Gulf of Aden in first six months of the year

News Stories, 6 August 2013

© SHS
Disembarkation of a new arrivals on two boats in the Hadramout district of Yemen.

GENEVA, August 6 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Tuesday said it was concerned by the growing number of people risking their lives to reach Yemen by boat from Africa after recording the arrival on the Yemeni coast of more than 46,000 refugees and migrants during the first six months of this year.

The number of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants in Yemen has been rising for the past six years. Last year, a record 107,500 people made the journey. And while numbers are lower so far this year 46,417 from January through June, compared to 56,146 for the same period in 2012 the number of arrivals is significant. Since 2006, close to half-a-million people have arrived in Yemen through mixed-migration movements.

"We have witnessed a significant change in the refugee and migrant population arriving in Yemen over the past two years, with more Ethiopians making the crossing and citing the difficult situation at home," UNHCR's chief spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday.

Previously, Somali refugees made up between one-third and one-quarter of total arrivals. Of the people who arrived in Yemen in the first half of this year, 38,827 (84 per cent) are Ethiopian, while 7,559 (16 per cent) are Somali.

Most of the new arrivals reached Yemen in February-March and across the Red Sea. Of the total, 34,875 arrived via the Red Sea and mainly in Lahij Governorate. The other 11,542 arrived via the Arabian Sea mainly in Hadramout Governorate.

Refugees and migrants are vulnerable to exploitation, violence and sexual abuse at all stages of their journeys. Boats crossing the Arabian Sea or Red Sea to Yemen are often overcrowded. Smugglers may force passengers into the water to avoid detection. Smugglers and traffickers often wait on the coast to receive the new arrivals.

The Yemeni authorities recognize Somali arrivals as refugees automatically. UNHCR determines the refugee status of Ethiopians and other nationals. Though few Ethiopians seek asylum partly because most want to travel on beyond Yemen or they don't know how the asylum process works. As a result, most Ethiopians are left extremely vulnerable.

There are positive developments. The number of dead or missing refugees and migrants has dropped significantly to five people so far this year from 43 in all of 2012. And in Yemen, a traditional transit hub for migrants and a country hosting more than 240,000 refugees, migration monitoring is relatively well managed. Yemeni authorities have also enjoyed some success in locating smugglers' and traffickers' bases and cracking down on their operations.

While UNHCR remains concerned by the continued high numbers of asylum-seekers and migrants arriving in Yemen from the Horn of Africa, the agency is also engaged with the Yemeni government and national and international partners. "Together we are working to enhance services offered to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants as well as find sustainable solutions," Fleming said.

UNHCR and its partners, such as the Yemen Red Crescent Society and the Danish Refugee Council, work daily to record new arrivals and offer them support. That help takes many forms, including food and water, first aid and transportation to transit and reception centres hot meals, welcome packages including blankets and clothing, accommodation and counselling.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Crisis in Horn of Africa

Tens of thousands of Somalis are fleeing conflict and drought into Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Somalia Emergency: Urgent Appeal

Widespread malnutrition among Somali refugees requires immediate action.

Donate to this crisis

Asylum-Seekers

UNHCR advocates fair and efficient procedures for asylum-seekers

Zero-Star "Hotel" that Asylum-Seekers Call Home in Dijon

France is one of the main destinations for asylum-seekers in Europe, with some 55,000 new asylum applications in 2012. As a result of the growing number of applicants, many French cities are facing an acute shortage of accommodation for asylum-seekers.

The government is trying to address the problem and, in February 2013, announced the creation of 4,000 additional places in state-run reception centres for asylum-seekers. But many asylum-seekers are still forced to sleep rough or to occupy empty buildings. One such building, dubbed the "Refugee Hotel" by its transient population, lies on the outskirts of the eastern city of Dijon. It illustrates the critical accommodation situation.

The former meat-packing plant is home to about 100 asylum-seekers, mostly from Chad, Mali and Somalia, but also from Georgia, Kosovo and other Eastern European countries. Most are single men, but there are also two families.

In this dank, rat-infested empty building, the pipes leak and the electricity supply is sporadic. There is only one lavatory, two taps with running water, no bathing facilities and no kitchen. The asylum-seekers sleep in the former cold-storage rooms. The authorities have tried to close the squat several times. These images, taken by British photographer Jason Tanner, show the desperate state of the building and depict the people who call it home.

Zero-Star "Hotel" that Asylum-Seekers Call Home in Dijon

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

New Arrivals in Yemen

During one six-day period at the end of March, more than 1,100 Somalis and Ethiopians arrived on the shores of Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden on smuggler's boats from Bosaso, Somalia. At least 28 people died during these recent voyages – from asphyxiation, beating or drowning – and many were badly injured by the smugglers. Others suffered skin problems as a result of prolonged contact with sea water, human waste, diesel oil and other chemicals.

During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

New Arrivals in Yemen

Italy: Mediterranean RescuePlay video

Italy: Mediterranean Rescue

The Italy Navy rescues hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers on the high seas as the numbers of people undertaking the crossing of the Mediterranean from North Africa grows.
Italy: Thousands of Refugees Rescued in SicilyPlay video

Italy: Thousands of Refugees Rescued in Sicily

Over 1,200 migrants were rescued from inflatable boats off the boast of Lampedusa on the 7th of February by the Italian navy. Young men, women and children, crammed into eight dinghies and a boat, were spotted by helicopter half way between Tunisia and Italy.
South Sudan: Here and HelpingPlay video

South Sudan: Here and Helping

The South Sudanese town of Bor was among the worst hit in the latest violence in the country. These newly displaced people found shelter in an Ethiopian refugee camp.