It is a powerful comment on how difficult conditions have become in the Horn of Africa that refugees from Ethiopia and Somalia are pouring into Yemen, a war-torn nation that would seem an unlikely destination.
Nevertheless, Al-Jazeera cites UN statistics that “nearly 90,000 Ethiopians and more than 17,000 Somalis crossed the Gulf of Aden since January 1.”
Evidently, many of these refugees are hoping to pass through Yemen en route to the Gulf oil monarchies or Europe, but a spokesman for the UN refugee agency speculated that some are “deceived or ill-informed about the severity of the conflict in Yemen,” which has killed over 7,000 people and displaced three million more.
Such refugees are also presumably unaware of reports that new arrivals to Yemen have been subjected to “physical and sexual abuse, deprivation of food and water, abduction, extortion, torture and forced labor by smugglers and criminal networks as well as arbitrary arrest, detention and deportation,” according to the UN.
Additionally, at least 79 refugees have died trying to cross the Gulf of Aden. Some of those who pass through Yemen proceed to attempt a second dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe or fall prey to human traffickers offering European passage, according to Voice of America News.
UNHCR said it intends to launch a regional information campaign in December to advise African migrants of the dangerous situation in Yemen and the perils of crossing the Gulf of Aden.
UN spokesman William Spindler acknowledged to VOA News that such an information campaign “cannot be expected to simply discourage people who are fleeing very difficult conditions at home – whether it is war, persecution, famine, or whatever,” so it would also be essential to improve conditions in the refugees’ countries of origin.