itrean-and-somali-refugees-thrown-on-sanas-streets> Yemen: Imprisoned
Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somali refugees thrown on Sana's streets
Saturday, 28 July 2012 20:51
Refugees protest outside the Ministry of Human Rights in Sanaa.Yemen Times-
African refugees and asylum seekers demonstrated outside the Human Rights
Ministry in Hadda on Monday morning, protesting excessive force used by
Yemeni security forces to remove them from the country's immigration prison
the previous evening.
According to the former prisoners, security forces forcibly removed them
from the prison.
Security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets, the former prisoners said,
throwing tear gas canisters into cells to disorient them, before dragging
them out and beating them with steel rods.
Refugees held a protest outside the Ministry of Human Rights building to
call attention to perceived excessive force used by security forces to
remove them from the immigration prison in Sana'a.
Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somali refugees who were in the prison now live on
Following last year's 11-month demonstration, refugees set up tents outside
UNHCR's Sana'a office before being removed by Yemeni security forces. UNHCR
said it offered the refugees a one-time payment to end demonstrations
outside the office. Refugees said they were offered $400 per family, though
those who accepted UNHCR's offer said they only received $200 of the
During the height of the political uprising, refugees-facing increased
violence from Yemeni security forces-demanded a durable and permanent
solution to their situations.
"Many of us have been here for 10, 15, 20 years," said one Oromo-Ethiopian
woman. "We asked for Yemeni citizenship or repatriation elsewhere. They
rejected all of our demands, and after being removed, we agreed we would go
to Al Kharaz refugee camp. They took three buses to Al Kharaz; the rest of
us were taken to prison."
UNHCR estimates 400 refugees were initially taken from outside the UNHCR
building and placed in immigration prison. Prior to Sunday's removal of
refugees from the prison, UNHCR estimated there were 120 men, children and
women inside. Prisoners said there were 114 refugees-102 Ethiopians, seven
Eritreans and five Somalis, including 40 women and 54 children. The youngest
of the imprisoned was 3 months old.
"They threw tear gas canisters into the men's cells," Makya Ahmed, 25, said.
"The gas drifted over, women and children were crying and vomiting. After
they removed us from our cell, they hit me in the back with a steel rod and
then picked me up and threw me into a van."
Refugees at Monday's protest, now living on the streets with no food or
water, sounded increasingly desperate.
"We aren't allowed any dignity," Ahmed said. "We can't live like this; take
back your IDs. They're of no use to us," she said about her Refugee Status
Desperate for justice
Some refugees threatened to harm themselves if their situations didn't
improve. Several mentioned self-immolation as an option.
"We have no work, no one treats us well, we've contacted all the human
rights groups," Yousef Aman, an Oromo-Ethiopian, said. "At this point, we
are just tired. I don't know if there are human beings anywhere else on the
planet who live like this. It's been 10 years for me. I can't go on; I'd
rather destroy myself."
The majority of the refugees are Muslim and spend the month of Ramadan
fasting, praying and thinking of God. Refugees reported that immigration
prison authorities did not provide food or water during their last three
weeks in prison. They instead relied on friends or community members to
bring food and water once a week from outside.
Today, the refugees, who have no blankets, mattresses or clothes other than
what they are wearing, sleep on cement pavements, unprotected from the
elements. It is Ramadan, but they have no Suhoor or Iftar-one woman wondered
aloud if God will accept her fast.
According to the U.N.'s 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Yemen is a
signatory, the state has obligations to refugees. These include protecting a
refugee's right to non-refoulement-protection against forcible return. While
the Yemeni government grants prima-facie refugee status to Somalis fleeing
two decades of war, it does not recognize the refugee status of Ethiopians
and Eritreans. Yemeni policy is to arrest and deport them, behavior that is
contradictory to international law, according to Human Rights Watch.
Received on Sat Jul 28 2012 - 21:32:28 EDT