Mixed migration from the Horn of Africa to Yemen
Yemen is surrounded by the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean which has historically made it an important transit point and destination for people. For the last two decades, Yemen has received a steady influx of mixed migrants from the Horn of Africa. Refugees and economic migrants cross the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea from Somalia and Djibouti, in search of protection and economic opportunities, or frequently both.
Most mixed migrants coming to Yemen originate from Somalia and Ethiopia. Both nationalities arrive in smuggling boats, frequently traveling in poor and risky conditions. Drownings, beatings, sexual violence, extortion and inhumane travel conditions are among dangers they face. Their motivations for making the perilous journey to Yemen are mixed, with poverty, drought, political oppression and violent conflict all prompting individuals to leave in one of the largest mixed migration flows worldwide.
Since the outbreak of the civil war in the early 90s, the number of Somalis crossing the sea to Yemen has been steadily growing. The annual flow of Somalis to Yemen increased in 2006, when the South Central region became the scene of heavy fighting between the Transitional Federal Government and the armed opposition group Al-Shabaab. As well as the extreme insecurity caused by the entrenched conflict in Somalia, Somalis coming to Yemen are seeking better livelihoods opportunities than war-ravaged Somalia can offer. Meanwhile, Ethiopian new arrivals to Yemen are fleeing a mixture of political tension, the East African drought which has left millions in need of emergency aid, and very limited livelihood opportunities. More than 77,400 mixed migrants are estimated to have arrived in Yemen in 2009. The majority (57%) was Ethiopian, and 42% were Somalis. Numerous mixed migrants do not apply for refugee status in Yemen, instead continuing onwards to Saudi Arabia and other destinations to seek economic or physical security.
Yemen is a State Party to the 1951 Refugee Convention but has not yet developed national asylum or migration legislation. The Government of Yemen and the National Committee for Refugees Affairs (NACRA) are in the process of drafting a national refugee law. Yemen currently accepts all Somali new arrivals as refugees on a prima facie basis, in light of the ongoing conflict in Somalia. Conversely, Ethiopians and other non-Somali new arrivals are regarded as irregular migrants and are in some cases detained and deported.