By andualem sisay
Hundreds of Ethiopian migrants have been evacuated from war torn-Yemen in the past 10 days.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said in a press statement it had evacuated 485 vulnerable Ethiopians, including 122 women, 261 men, a child and 101 unaccompanied minors from Yemen.
The voluntary repatriations, the statement explained, was supported by the governments of Yemen, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia.
“This has followed IOM’s earlier repatriation of 4,222 Ethiopians from Yemen in an operation that was suspended in September 2015 due to lack of funding. The same operation provided post-arrival assistance to another 3,319 Ethiopians fleeing Yemen,” it said.
The new repatriation from the Hodeidah seaport to Djibouti and on to Ethiopia by bus, targets a total of 1,212 stranded migrants.
IOM’s migrant assistance and protection operations in Yemen were also being supported by other partners such as the US State Department and the UK’s DfID.
The arrivals confirmed the desperate situation of many migrants, hence the urgency for the evacuation.
Ahmed (not his real name), a 22-year-old barber, explained that he left Ethiopia in search of a better life in Saudi Arabia.
“After paying smugglers to take us to Yemen, we were promised that we would be on our way to Saudi Arabia to make a lot of money. But we were intercepted by kidnappers as soon as we got off the boat in Yemen,” he said.
Beaten to death
“We saw two individuals beaten to death. They were hang upside down and beaten to death; we watched them die.”
Ali (name changed), a 25-year-old khat shop owner, narrated how he was also kidnapped and held to ransom. Family members in Saudi Arabia had to pay the kidnappers a total of $2,700 (Saudi Riyals 10,000) for his release. He considers himself fortunate, given the cruelty he witnessed.
“We saw the kidnappers melt plastic on the backs of some of them. We saw one young man beaten so badly till his arm and ribs were broken and then dumped onto the streets.
“If you don’t have the money to pay the ransom demanded, you die. We also saw many women who were raped,” he told IOM.
The migrants who either managed to escape or were released by kidnappers following ransom payments, were given refuge at IOM Yemen shelters. However, they represent a small percentage of all those in need of repatriation, according to the IOM Migration Management Programme Coordinator in Ethiopia, Ms Fumiko Nagano.
“According to UNHCR and the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, over 92,000 migrants arrived in Yemen in 2015. Some 89 per cent of those are believed to be Ethiopian nationals,” she said to IOM.
The Director-General of the Middle East Affairs Directorate at the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Siraj Reshid, said the latest returnees from Yemen further underlined the need to strengthen the fight against human traffickers.
“The Government of Ethiopia has already ratified an umbrella law and we are working on its implementation to promote regular channels for those who seek job opportunities abroad,” he told IOM.
By andualem sisay