By NY Staff
A record number of African refugees and migrants made the dangerous sea journey to Yemen this past year, according a recent statement released by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
UNHCR reported that the previous record high was in 2011, “when more than 103,000 people arrived in Yemen on smugglers’ boats.” 80 percent of the arrivals were Ethiopian. Somalis made up a large proportion of the rest of the arrivals.
Despite a deep economic crisis, many refugees and migrants use Yemen as a transit stop with hopes of reaching states in the wealthier Persian Gulf.
The Yemeni government grants automatic refugee status to all Somalis who survive the voyage to Yemen, but Eritrean and Ethiopian nationals are routinely denied refugee status.
Eritreans deported back to their home state face imprisonment and even death for fleeing. For the nation’s mandatory national service, which has been condemned by governments and rights groups around the world, “men aged 18 to 54 and women aged 18 to 47 are required to provide 18 months of military and non-military public works and services in any location or capacity chosen by the government,” according to UNHCR’s 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report – Eritrea.
Meanwhile in Abyan, UNHCR reports that more than 100,000 people have returned to their homes as conditions have improved and the conflict has subsided.
During UNHCR representative Naveed Hussain’s visit to Abyan Governate’s capital, Zinjibar, UNHCR reaffirmed their commitment to the region, pledging to continue supporting internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees.
Greater emphasis must now be placed on early recovery and rebuilding infrastructure in Abyan, Hussein said.
Hussein said that there have been positive developments in Zinjibar. He noted the rehabilitation of water and electricity services, the provision of basic care in hospitals, the availability of transportation and the re-opening of small markets and some commercial activities. Much more resources are needed to increase and sustain these developments, Hussein said.
“We must work together to support the efforts of the government in Abyan in assisting the returnees and those affected by the conflict in rebuilding their lives. People have shown a lot of courage to return, and it is our responsibility not to fail them,” said Mr. Hussain. “Currently Abyan is a top priority for us.”