Yemen - IOM has welcomed recent efforts by the Yemeni government to crack down on smugglers who take advantage of desperate migrants. But it warns that more needs to be done to protect irregular migrants at the mercy of ruthless smugglers who regularly use torture and rape to extort more money from migrants and their families in their countries of origin.
Since 6 June 2014, the Yemeni authorities have released 92 migrants from smugglers’ houses in Haradh, at the border with Saudi Arabia, and arrested 16 smugglers, several of them of Ethiopian origin. Among the migrants, who are primarily Ethiopian, there are also some Somalis, who have prima facie refugee status in Yemen. Many of the migrants are women and all appeared to be en route to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“As Saudi Arabia has been returning all irregular migrants on its territory since the end of last year, travelling there to find work has become very dangerous for those using informal, often ruthless intermediaries to get them in overland,” said IOM Chief of Mission in Yemen Nicoletta Giordano.
The Yemeni authorities have been bringing the freed migrants to IOM’s Migrant Response Centre (MRC) in Haradh for food and medical care. Migrants who have escaped from smugglers in recent weeks have also sought refuge at the MRC. Some among them were injured and one eventually succumbed to her wounds in the IOM infirmary. IOM referred those seeking asylum to UNHCR for interviews.
The presence of a vast network of smugglers in Haradh was recently highlighted in a report by Human Rights Watch entitled: “Yemen’s Torture Camps: Abuse of Migrants by Human Traffickers in a Climate of Impunity.” The report, which was welcomed by IOM, highlights the abuses suffered by many irregular migrants traveling through Yemen.
Following the report’s release, the authorities in Haradh embarked on a number of raids against the smugglers and requested IOM to provide for the rescued migrants’ immediate needs and facilitate the voluntary return of those who wish to go back home.