UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also warned against perilous Horn of Africa sea crossings after 92,000 reached Yemen in 2015, with 36 already drowned.
“To date, only 2011 (103,154) and 2012 (107,532) have seen higher arrivals of Ethiopians and Somalis in Yemen than there were in 2015,” the UNHCR said in its latest data on sea arrivals in Yemen received in Nairobi.
Every year tens of thousands of Somalis and Ethiopians – fleeing violence, human rights abuses and poverty in the Horn of Africa – pay smugglers to ferry them across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen.
Many never make it, as the boats capsize or smugglers beat some of the passengers to death, force them overboard, or disembark people too far from shores.
UNHCR Somalia and partners have been working with the international community and Somali authorities to improve political, security and socio-economic conditions in Somalia, as well as actively pursuing durable solutions for refugees, returnees and people who are internally displaced.
“These efforts aim at providing an alternative to Somalis to undertaking perilous sea journeys to Yemen. The number of Somalis who made the journey to Yemen last year compares to a high of just over 33,000 in 2008,” UNHCR said.
Yemeni authorities continue to recognize Somali arrivals as refugees automatically. UNHCR determines the refugee status of Ethiopians and other nationals.
Though few Ethiopians seek asylum – partly because most want to travel to beyond Yemen or they don’t know how the asylum process works. As a result, most Ethiopians are left extremely vulnerable.
The latest data show that despite the ongoing conflict some 92,446 people from Horn of Africa arrived by boat there in 2015.
“This is one of the highest annual totals of the past decade. A full two thirds arrived since March 2015 when the conflict began,” the UN refugee agency said.
Migration patterns in the East and Horn of Africa region have evolved dramatically due to a range of driving forces including climatic vagaries, conflicts and economic stresses.
UN agencies say that countries in East and Horn of Africa are grappling with a new wave of migrant population escaping from drudgery, environmental disasters and political crises in their home countries.
According to UNHCR, most of the arrivals in 2015 were along the Arabian Sea coast rather than the Red Sea coast where in previous years the majority of arrivals were recorded and where smuggling and trafficking networks have been active.
Many new arrivals are misinformed about the severity of the conflict, believe that the situation has become relatively calm in some of the southern governorates, or are following rumours of improved access into neighbouring Gulf countries. Enditem