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UNHCR position on returns to Yemen

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Manual and Guideline
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Introduction

1. In November 2011, Yemen embarked on a fragile process of political transition after nationwide anti-government protests resulted in the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the handover of power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, and the formation of a Unity government under a political roadmap formulated through the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative. However, the situation in the country steadily deteriorated as a result of political instability and increased fighting between different groups, including government forces, Houthi forces (also known as Ansar Allah), armed forces allied with former President Saleh, Al-Qa’eda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), local tribesmen and Southern separatist groups.

2. The political transition began to unravel when Houthi forces took over the capital, Sana’a, in September 2014. In the months that followed, the Houthi forces reportedly expanded and consolidated their control over Sana'a as an agreement to put in place a new power-sharing government failed to take hold. On 22 January 2015, the internationally-recognized government of President Hadi stepped down after Houthi forces seized the presidential palace and placed the president and his government under house arrest. On 6 February 2015, the Houthis dissolved the parliament to pave the way for a transitional assembly and a five-member presidential council.4 On 21 February 2015, internationally recognized President Hadi fled from house arrest to the southern city of Aden and reasserted his authority as president. Since 23 March 2015, the conflict in Yemen has escalated significantly as clashes between Houthi forces and other parties intensified mainly in the South. On 26 March 2015, air strikes began to hit Houthi targets and military installations, primarily in Sana’a and Sa’ada before expanding to other governorates. As of 7 April 2015, 14 of the country’s 22 governorates were affected by air strikes or armed conflict. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and emphasized the need for political negotiations to resolve the crisis. He also reiterated earlier calls to all parties and Member States to refrain from taking any actions that undermine the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen.

3. In parallel to the deepening crisis, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and other extremist groups, which oppose both the government and the Houthi forces, maintain the ability to stage numerous deadly attacks. 8 These extremist groups reportedly seek to take advantage of the escalation of violence and instability to claim influence and territory.9 Meanwhile, in the South, which was an independent state prior to its 1990 union with the North, the situation remains volatile with Southeners demanding increased autonomy or separation.10 According to observers, Yemen stands on the brink of civil war with the conflict having taken on “worrying sectarian tones and deepening north-south divisions.”11 At the time of writing, the political and security situation remains highly fluid.