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IOM resumes Evacuation of Ethiopian migrants stranded in Yemen

IOM Press Briefing Notes – Tuesday 21 June 2011

IOM Resumes Evacuation of Stranded Ethiopian Migrants from Yemen As it Continues Providing Assistance to those Displaced by Conflict – More than 1,900 Ethiopian migrants stranded near Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia in desperate conditions and unable to return home are to be helped by IOM as it resumes a humanitarian evacuation programme out of this country.

A first group of 275 Ethiopians including 115 minors, 34 women, 15 cases treated from gunshot wounds, and two cases requiring psychological assistance, were taken from Haradh to Hodeidah on Yemen’s Red Sea coast and flown to Addis Ababa on Monday 20 June on an IOM-chartered flight.

On arrival, the returnees were taken to an IOM Transit Centre and provided with accommodation, reintegration assistance and where necessary, medical and psychosocial support. Unaccompanied minors will be referred to UNICEF and its partners later today

The remaining group of Ethiopian migrants wanting to return home will be assisted through another six evacuations in the next two weeks.

The IOM operation to help stranded migrants in Yemen, which began last November, has had to be put on hold a few times due either to lack of funding or the security situation in the country.

To date, IOM has assisted 3,756 Ethiopian migrants to return home from Haradh where the Organization has a centre providing shelter for the vulnerable migrants, many of whom are hungry, exhausted or made ill by their long trek to the north of the country.

Unable to continue their journey north due to tightened border controls by the Saudi authorities or to return home without any resources, migrants frequently find themselves in Haradh without adequate food, shelter and water.

Yemen has long been a major transit point for irregular migration flows from the Horn of Africa to the Gulf countries and beyond. The crisis in Yemen has led to large numbers of Ethiopian migrants and Somali asylum-seekers arriving on its shores as human smugglers take advantage of the political instability in the country.

A total of 28,179 Ethiopian irregular migrants have arrived in Yemen so far this year, in addition to 9,227 Somalis, bringing the total arrivals for the first half of 2011 to 37,406, according to UNHCR.

Of these, around 12,000 have managed to reach Haradh, where they are registered and given shelter and assistance by IOM and its partners.

Meanwhile, IOM has also been working to provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced Yemenis despite mounting violence in the country.

In the southern governorate of Abyan where IOM is the only humanitarian agency with access, the Organization is registering Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and distributing emergency assistance following an initial rapid needs assessment.

IOM estimates more than 10,000 people have been displaced within Abyan from clashes between militants and government forces with the displaced fleeing largely urban centres to other locations in the governorate or beyond. About 20,000 people from Abyan are displaced in the neighbouring governorates of Aden and Lahj.

IOM has so far registered about 2,000 displaced families in Abyan who are living in schools, public buildings and host communities. Non-food relief items have been distributed to about 1,500 of the displaced.

Nevertheless, on-going clashes and tenuous access to the most insecure areas of Abyan are resulting in slow progress in the registration of the IDPs with violence also hampering the distribution of humanitarian aid.

Despite these hurdles, IOM plans to expand its humanitarian assistance in Abyan to address water, health, hygiene and protection needs of families displaced by the conflict in coordination with local authorities and humanitarian partners. Food, water and health are priority needs among the displaced.

Source: International Organization for Migration

Spokesperson: Jean-Philippe Chauzy

Date: 21 June 2011

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