At least 27,800 people have crossed from the Horn of Africa to war-torn Yemen in the first five months of 2022, more than the total who made the journey all of last year along what was the world’s busiest maritime migration route prior to COVID-19, according to the International Organization for Migration’s (OIM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM).
IOM last year reported that an estimated 27,700 migrants entered Yemen through the so-called Eastern Route, down from 138,000 in 2019 due to heightened COVID-19 mobility restrictions. Approximately 37,500 made the journey in 2020.
The rise in arrivals is cause for alarm in a country now grappling with its eighth year of conflict.
“We are increasingly concerned about the safety and well-being of people moving through Yemen,” said Christa Rottensteiner, IOM Yemen’s Chief of Mission. “Our teams meet migrants every day who have been injured in the conflict or become stranded on their journeys.”
A variety of factors may be influencing this year’s increase, including a loosening of COVID-19 mobility restrictions, more favorable weather conditions, and the security situation and drought in Ethiopia, where most migrants originate from.
Upon arriving in Yemen, migrants face perilous onward journeys to Gulf countries in search of work. They often travel across conflict frontlines and face grave human rights violations such as detention in inhumane conditions, exploitation and forced transfers across lines of control.
Women and girls often report experiencing gender-based violence, abuse or exploitation, usually at the hands of traffickers and smugglers.
In the north of the country, IOM’s partners and the local community have reported that over 1,000 migrants – including women and children – have been injured or killed by attacks this year.
Every month, hundreds are treated for gunshot wounds at an IOM-supported hospital near the border town of Sa’dah.
In Ma’rib – some 25 kilometres from one of the conflict’s frontlines – approximately 4,500 migrants are stranded, unable to continue their journey onward or return back.
More than 900 migrants departed on Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) flights from Aden in May (as of 31/05 mid-day), but greater funding is needed to help thousands of others waiting to leave from Aden, Sana’a and Ma’rib.
“One of the main ways we can offer relief and protection is to open more opportunities for migrants who wish to return home to do so, and to provide life-saving assistance and medical aid to those in need,” said Rottensteiner.
“At a time when funding for the Yemen response is on a decline, we must not turn our backs on stranded migrants who are often forgotten in times of crisis. We urgently require greater funding to ease the suffering of more than 190,000 migrants in need of assistance in Yemen.”
IOM is currently appealing for USD 7.5 million to support thousands of stranded migrants to voluntarily return from Yemen to Ethiopia, through IOM’s VHR programme. The Organization also requires USD 9 million to continue its displacement and mobility tracking activities.
IOM’s humanitarian assistance and protection services for migrants in Yemen are supported by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; EU Humanitarian Aid; and the governments of Germany, Finland, Sweden and Norway.