Ramzi, from Syria, lives with his family of 11 In a modest apartment of three narrow rooms in the the Mathbah district of Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. The family was in a comfortable economic situation when they arrived in Sanaa after their escape from Syria. Ramzi works in the education sector to cover the needs of his family and earns less than $400 (355 euros) a month. But the consequences of Yemen’s own war have driven up prices, and Ramzi’s family now cannot cover the necessary expenses. Still, they have it better than many people from Syria do. They continue to work after Yemen’s economy collapsed.
Mohammed and his family of 12 live in northern Sanaa on the equivalent of $300 a month. “We left from one hellish war to another in Yemen,” Mohammed told DW, “but thank god for every circumstance.” He seemed afraid of what the future could bring. “Could you provide job opportunities for my children?” he asked.
The question gave me great discomfort, and it pained me to the situation of this family. This reflects the hardships that many Syrians face in these tough economic conditions.
“We escaped hell in our country to the hell of refuge”
‘War doesn’t forgive’
Millions of people have been displaced by Syria’s civil war, with thousands coming to Yemen at a time when the economy was relatively stable. Now, though, the work has dried up and Syrians are taking any job they can get. “We lost everything in Syria, and we weren’t able to leave,” said a woman who was sitting with her 50-year-old mother at the entrance to one of Sanaa’s public markets, where they asked for help from passersby. “If it weren’t for the help of one of our relatives, we would’ve been in the same situation as we were four years ago.”
Many Syrians in Yemen have become destitute and hope to seek refuge in Europe, but most will stay in Yemen – and without any aid to speak of. Abdullah told DW that he feeds his family of five by making Syrian sweets and selling them at popular markets in Sanaa. He refused to let us take his picture. “I beg of you,” he said. “Keep the media from our painful situation: We don’t want media satellites. We will never return and see anything beautiful; our situation is like our Yemeni brothers, because our country is at war and here there is also war. War doesn’t forgive.” Abdullah said he had lost his father to Syria’s conflict and his family had lost their home.
Some Syrians have protested at the Yemen office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to call for more aid. Others, like 27-year-old Eshaaq, have attempted to break through the fence of the UNHCR office after being refused services or asylum cards. Before Syrians began to arrive, the UNHCR already had a backlog of an estimated thousands of refugees from the Horn of Africa. Eshaaq needs the card to move on to a nearby country. “Nothing seems good to me,” he said. “We swallow the bitterness of war, deprivation and homelessness.”