The UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said, on 10 April 2015, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. With the escalation in Yemen’s conflict, UNHCR is seeing a rise in people fleeing by boat across the Gulf of Aden to countries in the Horn of Africa – historically a route traveled by refugees and migrants headed in the opposite direction, ie to Yemen.
Over the last 10 days 317 Yemeni refugees have arrived at Obock in Djibouti. In Somalia’s Puntland, at Bossaso port, and Somaliland, at Berbera and Lughaya ports (around 200 km west of Berbera), we have seen 582 arrivals, the vast majority Somalis but also Yemenis and a small number of Ethiopian and Djiboutian nationals were there.
“They all received food and water, and health and medical checks on arrival” said Edwards. The refugees tell us many more people are trying to leave Yemen but are being prevented from doing so by fuel shortages and high fees charged by boat operators. Ports are said to be closed and boats not allowed to depart.
A Somali man who was separated from his wife and daughter while fleeing bombing in Basatin district, in Aden city said he had been in hiding for three days in the port before managing to board a boat to safety. Among those with him on the 24-hour boat journey were an Ethiopian woman, recognized as a refugee in Yemen in 2002, and her three children. She said, she did not have to wait as smugglers prioritize women and children, but that her husband was still waiting in Aden for a place on a boat.
In Djibouti, newly arriving refugees are being registered at the Al-Rahma temporary transit center near Obock, where they receive food, water, medical care and other assistance. The authorities have identified a site for a refugee camp four kilometres away at Markazi. Djibouti is already home to nearly 15,000 refugees, the majority from Somalia. Most live in two refugee camps in the south of the country.
UNHCR is making contingency plans to be able to receive up to 30,000 refugees in Djibouti over the next six months. In Somaliland and Puntland, Somalia, UNHCR is refurbishing two buildings to serve as reception and transit centres for refugees from Yemen and Somalis who may return home because of the crisis. UNHCR and partners have started preparations to be able to receive up to 100,000 people, also over six months. UNHCR’s operations to protect and assist the 250,000 refugees (mostly Somalis with smaller numbers of Eritreans, Ethiopians, Iraqis and Syrians), the 330,000 Yemenis displaced by previous waves of violence, and the thousands more affected by the violence of the last two weeks are continuing where possible. Main difficulties for our 115 national staff and NGO partners are the security situation and fuel shortages.