Al Houthis Yemen_2
File picture: Al Houthi rebels chant slogans during rally in Sanaa, Yemen, on August 22, 2020. Image Credit: AP

Abu Dhabi: The Al Houthi militia on Friday suppressed a new protest organised by African refugees in front of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in Sana’a.

Protesters were demanding the international community and UN organisations investigate the brutal inferno at a migrant holding facility started by the militia on March 8, in which hundreds were killed and injured.

Survivors claim the Iran-backed Al Houthis rounded up hundreds of migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia’s Oromo ethnic group.

They were forced to either pay the Al Houthis or join them in their fight against the government.

Sources told Asharq Al Awsat that armed Al Houthis in security and military vehicles, last Friday morning cordoned off the sit-in site for African refugees, and then attacked them with live rounds and batons.

The sources said the Al Houthi attack resulted in the killing of at least two protesters, and the arrest of more than 400 people from the Ethiopian and Somali communities, including 50 women, who were taken to unknown destinations.

This is the third Al Houthi attack against African migrants in less than two weeks. On Thursday, they attacked migrants and kidnapped others when they staged a protest against the militias’ repeated violations against them, sources said.

The Al Houthis transported the African detainees to regions under their control in the Taiz province. They were then forced to walk towards government-controlled areas in the neighbouring Aden and Lahj provinces, witnesses said.

The sources estimated that 400 migrants, including women and children, were forced to leave Sanaa.

Last month, the UN called for a probe into a fire that killed at least 40 migrants at a holding facility in Sanaa, after Human Rights Watch said it was started by the Al Houthis.

Nearly 138,000 migrants from the African Horn attempted to pass through Yemen on their way to Gulf countries in 2019.

This number dropped to 37,500 in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Migrants in Yemen are vulnerable to human-trafficking operations, many of them linked to armed militias.