Somalis Still Flood Yemen, Going From Worse to Bad
By LAURA KASINOF
Published: December 10, 2011
ADEN, Yemen - For two decades, Somalis fleeing their <http://nyti.ms/YvQD
failed state found in Yemen a safe haven, a place to work, and a gateway to
wealthier gulf states.
Now, Yemen, itself facing state failure, is far from the ideal refuge. But
driven by famine and war in their own country, Somalis in greater numbers
than ever are making the perilous journey across the Arabian Sea to this
crumbling nation. They brave overcrowded boats, sometimes stormy seas, and
smugglers ready to cast them overboard to lighten a listing craft.
Many of the thousands who arrive here each month have no knowledge of
Yemen's dismal state, not the long months of uprising and economic decay,
the urban warfare that has killed dozens of civilians in major cities, or
the Islamic militants' seizure of large parts of the southeast.
Knowing, however, probably would not have dissuaded most.
"I just heard that they want to expel the president, and Yemen is trying for
a revolution," said Zahra Ibrahim, 29, who left her three children with her
parents in Mogadishu,
malia/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> Somalia's capital, paying smugglers $120 to
get her to Yemen to look for work.
"It's better than Somalia, even if it's a war," she said.
Many of the refugees end up here in a slum known as Basateen, living in
makeshift homes and finding what little work they can. Some live in a
refugee camp in the middle of the desert 80 miles west of Aden. Many want to
move on to Saudi Arabia or other oil-rich states, but cannot find the means
to do so or are turned around at the border.
Aid groups count more than 200,000 Somalis residing in Yemen now, but with
most of their foreign staff members evacuated, their help is limited.
The future offers gradations of bleak. Yemenis are not hiring housekeepers
or car washers, the usual Somali employments.
On a recent day, a crowd of stick-thin young men gathered in front of a
Basateen restaurant known for providing free lunch to new Somali arrivals.
Honking horns and shouting vendors turned the dusty central market around
them into a commotion of midday activity. A short walk away, Somali women
who recently arrived sat atop thin mattresses strewn across the floor of a
large shed, a shelter for the slum's most vulnerable.
"There is no life in Mogadishu," said Miriam Musa, a pregnant 22-year-old
with three young children clinging to her side. She said her husband was
still in Somalia.
Sheik Abdul Qader Hussein, a Somali community organizer in Basateen, said
that what the new arrivals were fleeing was worse than in the past, and that
what they now faced was also worse.
"All of the new people, they don't have money, or family here," he said.
"They go three days without eating a thing."
A 15-year-old Somali who traveled here alone, Ali Ibrahim, was struggling to
find a way forward. "My mother gave me the money to be smuggled," he said.
"She wanted me to go to Saudi Arabia and find work. I am only 10 days here,
but I see it's not good. I see the people here are worried about war."
Those brought by smugglers the 200 or more miles from Somalia to Yemen's
southeastern shore wait for days for a local nongovernmental group to take
them to Aden. The trip now takes 12 hours instead of 4, and is frequently
postponed. They must detour around the coastline route and the city of
> Zinjibar, which was taken over by Islamic militants,
but clashes break out along the alternate route, too.
Male refugees are often too impatient to wait. They take off on foot,
walking more than 100 dusty miles across Abyan Province. The journey can
take up to a week, and the dangers extend beyond the militants who control
parts of the route. The heat is searing; bandits may rob the refugees of
what little money they carry - perhaps just $20.
On Yemen's western coast, Somalis, along with some Ethiopians and Eritreans,
take a shorter, costlier route from Djibouti. But other traffickers have
begun preying on those migrants, aid organizations say, forcing them into
cars after they land, raping women and demanding ransoms.
Now and then, a Somali decides he has had enough.
Hamza Abdu, 19 and a tailor, fled the central Yemeni city of
> Taiz, where government shelling falls on civilian
"There is much war in Taiz," said Mr. Abdu, who came here years ago, when he
was just a boy. "I will go back to Somalia. I came down to Aden to make the
arrangements for my trip back. My work totally stopped here, why should I
stay in Yemen?"
But for those like Ali Ashoor, 21, there is no going back. "There is no
Mogadishu anymore; it is finished," he said. "May God save us from the war
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Received on Sat Dec 10 2011 - 07:59:59 EST