The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says many refugees arriving in Yemen from Africa continue to suffer from rampant abuse in the southern areas controlled by the Arab country’s ousted government.
The IOM, which is affiliated to the United Nations, said in a report issued Tuesday that many refugees face torture, sexual abuse and death although some lucky ones find “irregular work” in the southern Yemeni province of Aden, where elements loyal to a government that was ousted from the capital Sana’a in 2014 still hold sway.
“Both en route and once in Yemen, many migrants suffer at the hands of cruel smugglers and other criminals, including physical and sexual abuse, torture for ransom, arbitrary detention for long periods of time, forced labor for no pay and even death,” said the IOM.
The report said some 7,000 refugees arrived in Yemen each month in 2017, nearly totaling 100,000 people for the entire year.
Yemen, the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula, has been battered by what the UN describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, which has come as a result of a devastating campaign launched by Saudi Arabia since March 2015. The war, which Riyadh says is meant to restore power to Yemen’s ousted government and push back the Houthi Ansarullah movement from Sana’a, has killed more than 14,000 people, mostly civilians, while it has inflicted huge losses on Yemen’s infrastructure.
The chaos has also prompted many to flee violence and poverty in the Horn of Africa into Yemen, where they hope to ultimately make it to the wealthier Arab countries of the Persian Gulf.
Confidential reports by the UN have also suggested that Saudi Arabia has also contributed to the plight of African refugees in Yemen. Some 42 civilians were killed in March 2017, when a helicopter, allegedly belonging to the Saudi-led coalition, opened fire on a vessel carrying more than 140 refugees in the Red Sea off the Yemeni coast.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed last month that Yemeni officials based in Aden who are backed by the United Arab Emirates detain and brutally abuse African refugees passing through the war-torn country’s southern port city.
The New York-based rights group reported on Thursday that the former Yemeni officials controlling Aden “torture, rape and execute” the refugees from the Horn of Africa in a detention center and forcibly deport them out to sea. Several hundred Ethiopians, Somalis, and Eritreans have been held at the detention center since 2017, the group said.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has also confirmed reports about the detention, abuse and forcible deportation of refugees in Yemen.