Tragedy and Atrocities against Ethiopian Migrants in Yemen on the Rise

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The plight of Ethiopians under the minority regime in Ethiopia on the Rise

By News Agencies,

Thousands of economic migrants from Ethiopia are increasingly being exposed to violence in the gulf nation of Yemen, a new report uncovers.

The report released this week by the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS) revealed that East African migrants most of them Ethiopians are regularly being subjected to extreme inhumane abuses including to kidnapping, rape and other forms of torture beginning upon their arrival in Yemen.

According to the new report, the kidnap of new arrivals has increasingly become a common source of financial income to criminal gangs in Yemen. 

Kidnappers request up to $300 ransom to free hostages and prevent further torture against a held African migrant, the report said.

“If money is sent from our friends or relatives, we would be released and be free. If not, they would beat us to death,” one Ethiopian migrant told a team of RMMS researchers. He added, “Our group was 35 at first, but three of our friends died due to the beating

Other forms of torture by kidnappers include “gouging out eyes, pulling out teeth, hammering nails, severe beatings causing multiple fractures, and dripping melted plastic or stubbing out cigarettes on to skin” the report said.

Perpetrators have committed atrocities against men, women as well as children who are as old as one year old.

A 15-year-old Ethiopian boy who arrived by boat on the Yemeni coast earlier in 2012 told the researchers that he was hung upside down with his legs tied with a rope and was beaten up almost to death for three days.

“I was made to watch an Ethiopian woman being raped and an Ethiopian baby about one-year-old being killed”, he told researchers.

RMMS which was established to support and enhance the protection of people in mixed migration flows in the Horn of Africa and Yemen, conducted interviews with some 130 migrants and groups in Yemen during May and June 2012.

Under various smuggling networks, every year, tens of thousands of Ethiopians risk their lives by making the dangerous journey across the Gulf of Aden on crowded boats across. Yemen, is a gateway to Saudi Arabia, where migrants hope to find lucrative jobs in the wealthy Arab nation.

During the first eight months of 2012, over 70,000 African migrants made their way to Yemen, three quarters of whom, according to RMMS, were Ethiopian nationals.

Currently there are over 12,000 stranded Ethiopian migrants trapped in Yemen’s Haradh, a Yemeni-Saudi Arabia border town, used by the migrants as a main transit to cross to Saudi Arabia.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), many of the migrants were forced back by Saudi Arabia to Yemen due to their illegal status and remain languishing and in desperate conditions.

The IOM has has managed to return more than 6,000 Ethiopian migrants from Yemen in multiple rounds of repatriation operations.

Last March, IOM however announced that it was forced to suspend the repatriation operation to Ethiopian migrants in Yemen after donors failed to fund to the organization’s appeal of US$ 2.6 million.

Since 2009 Ethiopian migrants have constituted the largest group among those crossing the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. From 2006 to 2011 their number has increased six fold – from some 11,000 in 2006 to 61,000 between January and October of this year (2012).” – UNHCR Spokesperson in Geneva


At least 72 Ethiopian Refugees Drowned in the Gulf of Aden

Bodies of Ethiopian victims of migration tragedy are collected on a beach in Yemen for mass burial by bulldozer. (Photo: UNHCR)

By Durame,

27 October 2012 – At least 72 Ethiopian migrants are reported to have drowned yesterday while attempting to cross from Bossaso, Somalia to Yemen, authorities there reported.

The migrants were traveling in two boats which were hit by strong winds and waves that capsized them miles off the Yemeni shore, state officials disclosed.

Fleeing political oppression and economic hardship, Yemen is seen as a gateway for other parts of Middle East due to its proximity to more prosperous gulf states.

Despite the risks of the voyage, some 75,000 thousand Ethiopian migrants cross the Gulf of Aden annually, according to the United Nation’s refugee agency.

Yemen says it will implement measures in the immediate future that could reduce the rising number of Ethiopian migrants entering the country, according to Interior Minister Abdul-Qader Qahtan.

 Africa’s Boat People are the Victims of Abductions, Extortions, Sexual Assaults and Kidnappings

By UN News Center,

“We are horrified by this latest tragedy. These brutal smugglers care nothing about the fate of the people they prey upon both refugees and irregular migrants who are desperate to escape persecution, violence and poverty in the Horn of Africa.” Erika Feller, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection

Over 12,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Yemen by boat in October, the highest monthly total since the United Nations refugee agency began tracking the flow of between the Horn of Africa and Yemen nearly six years ago. Many of them are victims of abductions, extortion,  kidnappings and sexual assaults.

The 12,545 arrivals last month brings the total so far this year to 84,656, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This exceeds the previous annual record of 77,000 in 2009.

With the autumn sailing season still in full swing, we expect the numbers for 2011 to grow further,” Melissa Fleming, UNHCR’s spokesperson in Geneva, said on Nov 18. Of this year’s arrivals 23,079 are from Somalia, while nearly all the remaining 61,577 are Ethiopians. Many of them are victims of abductions, extortion, kidnappings, and sexual assaults.

Fleming noted that since 2009 Ethiopian migrants have constituted the largest group among those crossing the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. From 2006 to 2011 their number has increased six fold – from some 11,000 in 2006 to 61,000 between January and October this year.


The sailing patterns have also shifted significantly over the years, she said. Initially, most of the crossings occurred in the Gulf of Aden where the journey from Somalia to Yemen takes three to four days. Since 2009 there has been increasing traffic on the Red Sea, where the voyage from the Horn to Yemen, with boats now arriving at all times of day, lasts only a few hours.

Today, three out of four boats reaching Yemen come ashore on the country’s Red Sea coast,” said Fleming. Refugees from Somalia continue to cite conflict, insecurity, drought and the resulting famine as the main factors driving them to leave their country, according to UNHCR. “Most arrive in Yemen unaware of the situation there, where insecurity makes further movement difficult and risky,” Fleming pointed out. “Most Ethiopians say they left home because of a lack of economic and livelihood opportunities, but some have indicated they fled in fear of persecution or insecurity in their regions of origin.”


As well as affecting refugees and migrants, the insecurity and fighting in many parts of Yemen also poses additional challenges and risks for UNHCR’s staff and its partners, who have been forced to reduce the number of convoys and take longer routes transporting refugees from the reception and transit centres along the Gulf coast to Kharaz refugee camp, some 130 kilometers west of Aden. The agency is also concerned about an increasing trend of abductions, extortions, kidnappings and sexual assaults targeting refugees, and particularly Ethiopian migrants. “While Somalis are automatically recognized as refugees upon arrival to Yemen and are generally left alone by smugglers, many Ethiopians are taken by smugglers to other Gulf states or held for ransom before they can have any contact with the authorities or UNHCR,” said Fleming. Yemen is host to more than 200,491 Somali refugees. There is also an estimated 445,679 Yemeni civilians displaced throughout the country.


Five months ago, the UN refugee agency voiced shock and sadness after at least 10 people died while making the perilous journey from the Horn of Africa to Yemen aboard a smuggling boat. The boat set sail early on Sunday from Bossaso, Puntland, in northern Somalia, according to reports by some of the original 115 passengers who made it to Yemen’s shore, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated in a news release. Ten Ethiopians on board suffocated en route to Yemen as the smugglers crammed 25 people in the engine room with no ventilation. Survivors claim that their bodies were thrown into the sea some seven hours after departure.


Fearing detection by the Yemeni navy, the smugglers forced the remaining passengers to disembark too far from the coast. Four more people perished after succumbing to the rough sea. As of this morning, one male body and one female body had been recovered. “We condemn the unscrupulous and inhuman treatment of refugees and others who are desperately seeking to flee the violence, human rights abuses and seriously debilitating life options in the Horn of Africa,” said Erika Feller, the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection. The Gulf of Aden remains one of the deadliest routes for those fleeing the Horn of Africa. According to UNHCR, 108 people are known to have drowned or fallen victim to risky crossings there since the start of 2011, compared to only 15 during all of 2010.


The growing number of deaths in Gulf of Aden has sparked alarm from UN refugee agency. UNHCR United Nations refugee agency voiced alarm at the growing number of deaths in the Gulf of Aden this year. The agency had already reported on April 15 that 89 people are known to have drowned in January and February alone – compared to 15 during the whole of 2010. “We also note with the great concern the resurgence of violence and inhumane treatment by smugglers of the refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants that they are transporting,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva. “The deadly record for the first three months is a stark manifestation of this trend,” he added. The agency expressed concern after survivors from the latest incidents said that their cries for help while at sea to a nearby foreign naval ship and cargo vessel went unheeded.

In April a boat carrying 45 Somali refugees sank some two kilometres off the Yemeni shores near the town of Murais, more than 300 kilometres east of Aden, after it reportedly ran into heavy winds and rough seas. Fifteen of those on board are known to have drowned and five are missing, while 25 people managed to swim to shore. The vessel approached the Yemeni coast in the afternoon of 12 April but the smugglers, fearing interception by the Yemeni Coast Guard, refused to approach the shore, said Mahecic. “The passengers, who by then were dehydrated and hungry, began crying and shouting. Despite their appeals, the crew decided to stay out at sea til the morning. The tattered vessel ultimately sank in rough seas.” The survivors say that during the voyage they saw a cargo vessel and foreign naval ship. Although the naval ship approached their boat, it ignored their cries for help, he reported.

Ethiopian refugee whose back was burned by sitting near the engine in the hold of the boat recuperates at the UNHCR reception center