AFP relates the remarkable statistic that almost 100,000 refugees from Ethiopia and Somalia flowed into Yemen last year, often dying en route, despite a brutal civil war that mushroomed into an international conflict. As bad as things are in Yemen, Ethiopians and Somalis are still willing to risk death to emigrate there.
U.N. refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards speculated that part of the problem was the impoverished refugees, 90 percent of them from Ethiopia, simply do not realize how bad Yemen has become, or how risky a clandestine voyage on unreliable boats across the Gulf of Aden or Red Sea can be. They may have been deliberately misled by smugglers looking to cash in on their misery.
“People continue to arrive despite unprecedented escalated internal conflict in Yemen, and tragically more people continue to lose their lives trying to cross the sea in overcrowded, unseaworthy boats,” said Edwards, noting that at least 95 migrants have drowned in 2015.
According to some estimates, over a hundred migrants died in a single incident two weeks ago, when a boat filled with Ethiopians and Somalis sank off the coast of Somaliland.
Yemen itself is the source of a significant refugee tide, with the U.N. estimating 168,000 have fled the country since March, with another 2.5 million internally displaced, and about 3,000 civilian casualties in the civil war.
Misinformed migrants, many of whom thought they could settle in peaceful quarters of Yemen or pass through it en route to the Gulf oil states, are surprised to find themselves caught in a crossfire.
“New arrivals have been described as facing movement restrictions in Yemen, and there have been reports of some being caught in the conflict and killed. There are now fewer income opportunities and available services, and organized gangs and smugglers continue to operate along the Red Sea coast,” the United Nations reports.