New African Refugees Surpass 80,000 in 2013

National Yemen

National Yemen

Abdulaziz Alheiajm

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees announced recently that refugees flocking to Yemen originate predominantly from the countries of the Horn of Africa. Between January and October, 80,000 displaced people arrived on Yemen’s shores.

Regarding this year’s arrivals, the person responsible for UNHCR’s work in Sana’a is Mr. Bruno Jiro, who said that there has been a marked decrease in the number of refugees of Somali nationality seeking asylum in Yemen this past year. At the same time, there has been an increase in seekers of asylum from other Horn countries, particularly Ethiopia, leaving their home countries for economic reasons.

In an interview with Arab Net, Mr. Jiro added that last year Yemen saw 107,000 new arrivals of refugees and migrants. The number in 2013 has so far reached 80,000. He noted that there has been an increase in teh number of arrivals in Yemen from the Horn of Africa. Many of this number are leaving their homes for economic reasons, using Yemen as a transit point on the way to Yemen’s wealthy Gulf neighbours.

Regarding the conflicting number of African refugees hosted by Yemen, some sources have suggested that Yemen currently hosts one million refugees, although the UNHCR claims that the real figures are only one quarter of this estimate. Mr. Bruon claimed that there exist significant gaps in the relevant statistics.

“When we talk about 250,000 refugees, we are talking about refugees who have been registered with UNHCR. There are other refugees who travel to Yemen seeking asylum who do not register with the UNHCR office, but we are only talking about the number of registered persons. Of course there are refugees of different nationalities who don’t apply for registration with our office, which leads to a gap in the statistics.


Yemeni Foreign Minister Dr. Abu Bakr al-Qirbi explained that, according to close estimates, there are over one million refugees from the Horn of Africa living in Yemen currently. He observed that there are between 600 and 700,000 internal refugees in Yemen as well, as a result of recent conflicts in Sa’ada and confrontations between al-Qaeda and the Yemeni military in the south.

Al-Qirbi told Arab Net that internal refugees are still considered persons seeking asylum—refugees—because they have left their homes and villages and live in camps identical to those of refugees from outside of Yemen. Therefore, these internal refugees pose the same sorts of problems to the Yemeni government, in terms of providing them with opportunities for livelihood, health care, education, and other civil services.

He added that Yemen’s capabilities are limited by its economic situation, and that Yemen’s poor economic standing makes it a strange destination for over one million refugees. The United Nations demanded nearly $720 million to care for Yemen’s refugees, but to date the state has only paid approximately 43% of this amount. Yemen’s negligence over its refugees speaks a great deal about its opinion of human rights, and the care it affords to groups forced to migrate by unbearable political and security conditions leaves little good to say about Yemen’s treatment of those in need.