Yemen + 1 more

Thousands of Ethiopian Migrants Stranded in Yemen Desperate to Go Home

News and Press Release
Originally published

More than 3,000 Ethiopian migrants who desperately want to return home have been stranded on the Yemeni-Saudi border in extremely difficult conditions for several months, with IOM unable to evacuate the vast majority of them due to lack of funds.

The group of 3,000 migrants, who have registered with IOM to be evacuated, are among an estimated 12,000 migrants in the northwestern Yemen-Saudi border area.

The majority of the migrants arrived in the border town of Haradh hungry, ill or exhausted by their long trek north towards Saudi Arabia after having survived the perils of their journey across the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea and a conflict-ridden Yemen.

Unable to continue their journey into the Gulf countries due to tightened border controls by the Saudi authorities or to return home without any resources, migrants arriving from the Horn frequently find themselves in Haradh without adequate food, shelter and water and are dependent on humanitarian assistance.

About 1,500 migrants are currently receiving meals daily from an IOM feeding centre supported by the World Food Programme (WFP).

Each month, an IOM clinic in Haradh treats an average of 600 migrants with the Organization also providing accommodation to about 200 migrants in need of special protection. Many of the women and girls among the group have been identified as victims of trafficking.

Having endured this situation for long periods of time, frustration is growing among the stranded Ethiopian migrants in Haradh.

On Monday, dozens of migrants vented their anger in front of the IOM departure centre in Haradh, demanding to be returned home to Ethiopia, resulting in the arrest of 13 people by authorities for inciting violence.

"This is an extremely difficult situation. Many of the migrants are in danger from violence and intimidation from smugglers. We've had bodies of migrants thrown into the IOM compound - killed by smugglers or in accidents for which the perpetrators are rarely held accountable. Their anger and frustration is understandable. They want to go home. IOM wants to be able to do more to help and evacuate them from the country, but we simply don't have the money to carry out an operation of this scale," says Nicoletta Giordano, IOM Chief of Mission in Yemen.

"While we appreciate all the support we have had this past 10 months, we urge donors to provide some US$ 2.5 million so that IOM can assist all those who need help. At the moment, we are forced to prioritize the extremely vulnerable, limiting our assistance to a few people at a time to return home."

The situation has become further complicated by the on-going violence in the country, making the airport road impassable and the difficulties in scheduling flights out of the airport.

However, since it began a humanitarian evacuation operation for migrants stranded in Haradh late last year, IOM has assisted over 5,000 irregular Ethiopian migrants to return home.

Yemen has long been a major transit point for irregular migration flows from the Horn of Africa to the Gulf countries and beyond. The crisis in Yemen has led to large numbers of Ethiopian migrants and Somali asylum-seekers arriving on its shores as human smugglers take advantage of the political instability in the country.

More than 45,000 Ethiopian irregular migrants have arrived in Yemen so far this year, in addition to over 15,000 Somalis, bringing the total arrivals for the first half of 2011 to above 60,000, according to UNHCR.

Of these, an estimated 15,000 have managed to reach Haradh.

For further information please contact IOM Yemen's Emergency & Post-Crisis Unit: Tel.: +967 1 410 568/572 / Email: