Human Trafficking Poses a Rising Threat in Yemen

National Yemen

By: Tahani al-Sabri

A panel discussion was held on December 5th in Sana’a about mixed migration and its impact on human trafficking. The seminar was organized by the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies at the University of Sana’a, in the presence of representatives of concerned authorities in government, civil society and international organizations.

At the opening of the seminar, Hooria Mashhour, the Minister for Human Rights, called on the government to provide a national legislation and legal framework to organize Immigration and Asylum to Yemen through the creation of a national law.

“Yemen is an open country and able to receive large numbers of immigrants and refugees in spite of the difficult conditions and challenges here. There needs to be an increase in international support to help Yemen cope with growing asylum requests and immigration from the countries of the Horn of Africa, Syria and other countries that suffer from difficult humanitarian conditions.”

She explained that the Ministry of Human Rights had accomplished many of the tasks entrusted to it by the administrations of the Immigration and Asylum, but also has a role to raise awareness in the definition of refugee rights and duties.

Mashhour added that there is a need for further study on the most vulnerable among the refugees, namely women and children, who need special care and attention. She also proposed a general study on the degree of integration of refugees who have been in Yemen for many years to determine how willing Yemen communities are to accept and coexist with these refugees.

Finally, she proposed that the government enhance its relationship with the international community and develop its cooperation and partnership networks. This would allow Yemen to better meet the challenges imposed by the growing numbers of asylum-seekers in the country.

During his address, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Muthana Hassan reported the outcomes of the recent Sana’a conference on asylum and migration from the Horn of Africa to Yemen. He also discussed the issues of human trafficking and human rights abuses linked to immigration flows. He added that several pages of a subsequent announcement would be dedicated to these topics.

“There is no country that cannot afford the consequences of the immigration and asylum alone, but there is a great need for international coordination,” Hassan said. He called on seminar attendees to support the center Migration and Refugee Studies at Sana’a University and turn it into a regional center for the study of the phenomenon of migration and asylum issues, including human rights abuses and human trafficking.

Dr. Abdul Hakim Sharjabi, President of the University of Sana’a, reiterated the importance of organizing such events to reduce the phenomenon of asylum, illegal misuse of migrants, and trafficking in human beings.

“We hope the outcomes of these events will lead to work programs that can help to reduce these phenomena,” said Sharjabi. “There are some objective conditions present in source countries that impel residents to immigrate to our country, though efforts are being made to limit the effects of this phenomenon.”

Quang Bui, Deputy Representative of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Yemen, commented on the role played by UNHCR to monitor the implementation of the 1951 agreement in controlling the refugee situation. In is address to the seminar participants, he described UNHCR’s work in support of Yemen in providing protection to asylum-seekers and refugees. He also informed attendees that there are nearly 240 thousand refugees in Yemen, 220 thousand of whom are Somali refugees.

Dr. Sarah al-Arasesi, director of Migration and Refugee Studies Center at Sana’a University, discussed the work done by the Center to meet the challenges and problems resulting from the flow of immigrants from countries in the Horn of Africa to Yemen.

She explained that even the seminar itself made a contribution to the effort of finding solutions to the region’s immigration challenges.

During the seminar, academics and specialists provided a set of worksheets dealing with the phenomenon of human trafficking, asylum, and the government’s efforts in addressing immigration and the fight against human trafficking. They also covered illegal immigration and its relationship to human trafficking from a religious perspective, the basic concept of protection, and direct assistance for victims of trafficking and other vulnerable migrants.