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RMMS Annual Trends and Analysis Summary 2017 - East Africa and Yemen

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Along the Eastern Route (between the Horn of Africa and Yemen)

At the beginning of 2017, movement from Yemen was primarily influenced by the ongoing conflict that left approximately 2 million internally displaced people. However, the numbers of migrants arriving into Yemen from the Horn of Africa via the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, were slightly lower than in 2016 particularly along the Red Sea route due to reports of deportations from Yemen.

Primary areas of arrivals via the three aforementioned routes were Berbera and Bossaso in Puntland where mostly Ethiopians, Somalis and Djibouti nationals migrated to. At the time, Oromos comprised a higher percentage (89%) of Ethiopians on the move following reports of persecution by the Ethiopian government on suspicion of involvement with the Oromo Liberation Front while other Ethiopians cited economic reasons as the primary motivation for migration. Noting the challenges within Ethiopia, most migrants opted to use smugglers in their migrant journeys with migrants reporting paying between USD 132 and USD 1,540 for parts or all of their journeys.

Somalis on the other hand attributed their migration to their search for economic opportunities as well as in response to the drought in Somalia that had resulted in loss of livelihoods for most Somalis. However, Somali migrants reported paying significantly less than their Ethiopian counterparts, paying between USD 100 to USD 250 for part or all of their journey.
By the beginning 2017, an estimated 92,603 people had fled Yemen to countries within the Horn of Africa, mainly Djibouti.
However, by the end of 2017, there were approximately 280,539 Yemeni refugees and asylum seekers, 190,653 living within the region, and over 2 million internally displaced. During this period, the drought in the Horn of Africa reduced available resources that would have been used to fund migration journeys. In March 2017, Saudi Arabia announced a 90 day grace period for undocumented migrants in the country to regularize their immigration status where migrants would be exempted from paying any penalties or fines. This was cited as being potentially beneficial for Ethiopian migrants who accounted for a higher number of migrants entering Saudi Arabia.

In the region, 871,843 Somali refugees were reported to be living in the Horn of Africa by the end of 2017 with a majority of these living in Kenya (313,255) followed by Yemen with 256,169 according to UNHCR. Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea combined hosted approximately 265,226 Somali refugees.
However, approximately 34,990 Somali refugee returnees from Yemen between 2014 and 2017 had returned with most settling in the Southern Somalia region of Banadir while 10,776 Yemeni refugees and asylum seekers had arrived into Somalia with most returning to the Somaliland region of Woqooyi Galbeed. Notably, there have been more returnees from Yemen in 2017 compared to 2016 with October and December recording the highest numbers.

The reduction in the number of Somali refugees living in Yemen is due to Yemen’s worsening humanitarian situation and the country’s limited capacity to provide protection and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers during a time when Yemen itself is facing internal civil strife. As a result, authorities discontinued the prima facie refugee status for Somali refugees and actors on the grounds such as UNHCR are undertaking Assisted Spontaneous Returns (ASR) for Somali refugees and asylum seekers leaving Yemen.