Somali refugees flooding into Yemen despite unrest
Fri Oct 21, 2011 2:50pm GMT
By Amena Bakr
GENEVA Oct 21 (Reuters) - Somalis fleeing famine and violence are pouring
into Yemen at an increasing rate, straining the already troubled host
country and aid groups, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.
However, while rising numbers are crossing the Gulf of Aden, the Dadaab
refugee complex across Somalia's land frontier in eastern Kenya has seen a
sharp drop in the number of new Somali arrivals. This could be due to
cross-border military operations or the onset of heavy rains, the UNHCR said
in a statement.
Between January and July, Somali arrivals into Yemen averaged 1,600 people
per month, but this increased to 4,500 in August and 3,292 in September,
despite unrest in the Arab world's poorest country, it said.
"The increased influx is adding pressure on Yemen and UNHCR," spokesman
Andrej Mahecic told a news briefing, adding that the United Nations agency
had received only half the $60 million it needs to fund its operations in
Yemen this year.
In total, the U.N. estimates around 196,000 Somali refugees are now in
Yemen, most having risked their lives to cross the Gulf of Aden on
smugglers' boats. A conflict in Yemen's Abyan governorate has displaced more
than 97,000 Yemenis, in addition to some 318,000 from Sa'ada governorate in
the north, it says.
"Our resources are currently strained by the increase of the Somali refugees
but also by the internal displacement in Yemen," Mahecic told Reuters.
Since January, Yemeni protesters, inspired by revolts elsewhere in the Arab
world, have demanded an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 32 years of
autocratic rule. On Friday, the U.N. Security Council is to vote on a
resolution that condemns the government crackdown on the protests.
So far this year, more than 318,000 Somalis were forced to flee their
homeland due to the deteriorating situation, the majority going to Kenya and
Ethiopia, according to the UNHCR.
Last week, gunmen kidnapped two Spanish women working for Medecins Sans
Frontieres at Dadaab refugee camp and brought them to the rebel stronghold
Kismayu in Somalia.
This was part of a series of kidnappings of foreigners in Kenya which
prompted Kenya to launch a cross-border incursion into Somalia to flush out
al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebels from its frontier area.
Refugee flows into Dadaab have slowed to a trickle, Mahecic said. "No
newly-arriving refugees have approached the registration centre (in Kenya)
in the last week."
Al Shabaab rebels withdrew from the Somali capital of Mogadishu in August,
four years into their battle to overthrow the Western-backed government, an
insurgency that has driven the chaotic country deeper into anarchy.
The UNHCR further warned that insecurity in Yemen would breed opportunities
for human traffickers and smugglers along the country's Red Sea coast.
"Reports of abductions of migrants or refugees upon arrival to Yemen
persist, mostly for ransom or extortion," Mahecic said. Another worrying
trend is the prevalence of abuse and sexual assaults of female refugees and
migrants while at sea, he said. (Reporting by Amena Bakr; Editing by
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Received on Fri Oct 21 2011 - 18:50:10 EDT