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Protecting migrants against increased violence

Relief Web (5 June 2013) –

Migrants from the Horn of Africa are increasingly falling victim to violence and abuse as they arrive of the shores of Yemen. Danish Refugee Council now expands protection patrolling along Yemen’s coastline and increase emergency assistance in response to the escalating brutality against vulnerable migrants.

The first five months of 2013 have seen escalating brutality and human rights violations perpetrated by smuggles and criminal gangs against migrants from the Horn of Africa in Yemen. Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and other humanitarian organisations working in Yemen report cases of violence – cases that are often extreme and include gang rape, cutting tongues, breaking limbs, shooting, killing children in front of others, burning plastic onto skin, lashings and hanging people from ceilings by their feet.

Through new financial support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Central Emergency Response Fund, via the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Danish Refugee Council has now stepped up efforts to assist the vulnerable migrants. The new funding has enabled the expansion of areas being patrolled, as well as additional emergency assistance, and activities to engage local communities in protecting the vulnerable migrants.

Smugglers and associated criminal gangs meet migrants as they land on the shores of Yemen, rob them and transport them to secret locations in Lahj, Taiz and further north in Hodeidah and Hajjah. There they are held hostage for months facing abuse and being extorted for ransom from their families back in Ethiopia or Somalia. Those who survive suffer psychological trauma in addition to their physical injuries.

Yemeni military has launched new campaigns in 2013 cracking down on smuggling and criminal gangs’ operations in Lahj, Haradh and Hodeidah, including military operations into ‘hostage hovels’ and armed patrolling of the Lahj coastline. These attempts to end the impunity in which the smugglers and criminals operate are welcomed. The operations, however, also pose additional risks for the migrants and individuals who are caught in the cross-fire, or drown when they are forced out of an intercepted boat by the smugglers.

Danish Refugee Council teams have patrolled the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden coastline since 2008. This is where patrol teams encounter groups of migrants and offer counseling, rights information, access to asylum, and basic emergency kits to those who do not wish to seek asylum.

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