Global perspective Human stories

UN refugee agency concerned at detention of Ethiopian boat people in Yemen

UN refugee agency concerned at detention of Ethiopian boat people in Yemen

The United Nations refugee agency has voiced concern at the detention in Yemen of 126 Ethiopians now threatened with deportation after crossing by boat from Somalia.

The Ethiopians made the two-day crossing smuggled in three boats from the Somali port of Bosaso together with more than 225 Somalis, but Yemeni officials told UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) staff yesterday that all non-Somali new arrivals should be detained and deported to their home countries.

“Yemen has shown hospitality towards Somali refugees and flexibility towards the tens of thousands of people arriving on its coast every year,” UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.

“We urge the government to respect its international obligations and to continue keeping its doors open to other nationals, who might fear persecution in their countries of origin. UNHCR is ready to assist the government with the screening and registration of all new arrivals,” he added, noting that the agency’s requests for access to the Ethiopians had so far been unsuccessful.

UNHCR wants to determine if there are refugees among the group who should not be deported.

Since the start of this year, more than 22,000 people aboard at least 188 people-smuggling boats have been recorded arriving in Yemen from Somalia after making the perilous passage across the Gulf of Aden. No specific breakdown is available on how many were Ethiopians because many do not register and travel on to other parts of Yemen or elsewhere in the Middle East.

But so far this year, 11,510 Somalis and 959 Ethiopians were transferred to UNHCR’s reception centre in May'fa. Some 133 Somalis and 193 Ethiopians reportedly died on the way from Somalia. The number of Ethiopian arrivals has slightly increased in recent months. In all, there are currently over 80,000 registered refugees in Yemen, including some 75,500 Somalis.