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UN 'alarmed' over migrant conditions in Yemen

An estimated 5,000 African migrants are currently being held in makeshift camps. [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 May, 2019

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Migrants from the Horn of Africa travel to Yemen en route to jobs in the oil-rich Gulf despite the brutal four-year war.
The UN migration agency has voiced concern over the condition of African migrants in Yemen amid reports of eight deaths from cholera in a detention centre.

The International Organization for Migration said in a statement on Thursday that the victims - predominantly Ethiopian - were among more than 1,400 people held at a detention centre near the port city of Aden, where at least 200 cholera cases were detected.

The IOM statement says it's "alarmed" by reports of migrants dying of preventable illnesses, being shot and suffering other inhumane treatment in makeshift detention centres.

Migrants from the Horn of Africa travel to Yemen en route to jobs in the oil-rich Gulf despite the four-year war between a Saudi-led coalition and Iran-linked Houthi rebels.

But many do not even survive the journey, dying at sea or at the hands of panicked smugglers. 

"I am deeply saddened by the deaths of these eight migrants, who were among the thousands of migrants being held in deplorable conditions across Yemen," said Mohammed Abdiker, the IOM's director of operations and emergencies.

"We have decried this policy to the authorities, urging them to take a humane approach to irregular migration."

Abdiker said the IOM had evidence guards had fired on migrants at a sports stadium in Aden, bastion of the embattled Yemeni government, wounding two and leaving a teenage boy "likely paralysed for life".

"IOM stands ready to support Yemen and other regional partners to identify sustainable responses to irregular migration, which do not involve the short-sighted abuse of vulnerable migrants and fully respects international law," he said.

"I am greatly concerned that this dire situation will further deteriorate."

The IOM said an estimated 5,000 African migrants, mostly Ethiopian and some from Somalia, were currently being held in makeshift camps in the government strongholds of Lahj, Abyan and Aden.

In January the UN announced plans to airlift some 3,000 Ethiopian migrants to their capital Addis Ababa from Yemen's Sanaa. Hundreds have already returned.

Voluntary flight returns were resumed last year after being suspended in 2015, when the Yemen war took a turn for the worse with the intervention of the regional military force led by Saudi Arabia.

Since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in the Yemen war, nearly 10,000 people have been killed, according to the World Health Organization, although other groups say the toll is significantly higher.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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