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Horn of Africa refugees flock to Yemen, UN says

Despite the conflict, refugees keep coming in the hope of making it to Gulf states

Gulf News

Geneva: More than 100,000 migrants from the Horn of Africa have flocked to Yemen this year despite a raging conflict in the country, the UN said on Tuesday.

As of mid-November, nearly 90,000 Ethiopians and over 17,000 Somalis had crossed the Gulf of Aden since January 1, according to the UN refugee agency.

Some are hoping to ultimately reach the Gulf Cooperation Council states and find work, while others are pursuing an indirect route to Europe, UNHCR spokesman William Spindler told reporters in Geneva.

Many migrants “may be deceived or ill-informed about the severity of the conflict in Yemen,” he added.

The fighting in Yemen intensified dramatically in March of last year when a Saudi-led international coalition acting on UN Security Council resolutions began an aerial offensive in support of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi against Al Houthi rebels and their allies, including Iran.

The conflict has killed more than 7,000 and displaced more than three million others.

But Ethiopian and Somali migrants have continued to head there by a perilous sea crossing “rather than stay in poverty or face persecution and insecurity at home,” Spindler said.

UNHCR said it had reports that upon arriving in Yemen migrants have faced physical and sexual abuse as well as torture and forced labour.

At least 79 people have also died while attempting to cross the Gulf of Aden, the UN agency added.

Despite the continuing violence, migration into Yemen rose this year compared to 2015, when 92,000 people from the Horn of Africa made the boat crossing.