2nd Jun 2023


Why Yemen deserves our support

  • Despite their own suffering, Yemeni communities generously shelter nearly 100,000 refugees from other war-affected countries (Photo: YGUSSWP)
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With Yemen's truce since April, Yemenis finally have a glimpse of hope for a peaceful future, after more than seven devastating years of war. In the midst of competing global crises and priorities, it is critical that — now more than ever — the international community must not forget Yemen.

Yemen's share of displacement is more than 4.3 million people who had to flee their homes to find safety elsewhere within the country — one of the world's largest internal displacement situations.

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  • Yemen's share of displacement is more than 4.3 million people who had to flee their homes to find safety elsewhere within the country — one of the world's largest internal displacement situations (Photo: UNHCR)

Some internally displaced people (IDPs) are already returning home amidst the destruction. And we should not also forget the Yemenis who have fled abroad and yearn to return home.

Despite their own suffering, Yemeni communities generously shelter nearly 100,000 refugees from other war-affected countries.

Yemen has assumed international legal responsibilities by becoming a party to the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, with support of UNHCR and the international community.

Refugee protection is Islamic

Yet, long before the Refugee Convention, the principles of refugee protection could be found in Islam and have been embraced by Yemen.

The National Committee for Refugee Affairs in Sana'a is collaborating with UNHCR on a joint vision for how refugees and asylum seekers should be treated.

This includes enhancing the authorities' refugee registration activities and determining who is a refugee, ensuring that UNHCR's stretched assistance targets those most in need, mobilising refugee communities to support their vulnerable community members, and supporting durable solutions including safe and voluntary return home and resettlement to third countries (more resettlement places are direly needed). Some of the recent progress is remarkable.

For example, the Bureau for Refugee Affairs has resumed registration of children in mid-2022.

As a result, 1,000 refugee children so far this year have their own refugee documentation for the first time in many years.

Throughout the country, authorities are upholding the voluntariness of return of refugees to their home countries. At a time of funding constraints, this is a shining example of authorities showing real progress with the donor funds available, including from the EU ECHO for the refugee programme.

The mixed migration situation of refugees and migrants making dangerous journeys from the Horn of Africa through Yemen onto the Gulf countries is as serious as the situation in the Mediterranean.

Although these population movements are not on Europe's doorstep, unlike the Mediterranean boat crossings, they deserve the same attention and support of the international community. Conflict-affected countries such as Yemen should not be left alone to shoulder the burden of such population movements.

The Sana'a based Supreme Council for the Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (SCMCHA) oversees and coordinates assistance to IDPs and returnees, as well as other humanitarian challenges such as responding to devastating floods.

UNHCR's support includes cash aid, shelter services, camp management, and a large range of protection services such as legal assistance and psychosocial support in our community centres across Yemen.

The dire suffering that thousands of Yemenis go through on a daily basis makes the current truce more critical than ever. It is a window of opportunity to break the devastating cycle of violence that has wrecked countless lives in Yemen and move towards a peaceful future.

The extension of the truce into more durable peace and stability will allow families divided by frontlines to be reunited and find solutions to their plight of displacement, children to go back to school, civilians to return to work and reach hospitals, essential trade to resume, and for people to have a better future.

It is estimated that throughout the conflict about 1.3 million displaced Yemenis have already returned home.

I have been deeply moved to see IDPs already taking the courageous step of returning home after years in displacement — returning to destroyed shelters, with no water, no electricity, no schools, no health facilities, and surroundings littered with the hazards of landmines.

UNHCR is joining forces with authorities and the humanitarian community to ensure that vulnerable returnees are included in our assistance and that our community-based quick impact projects help these communities. Development actors and donors need to support larger scale reconstruction efforts throughout the country.

My key goal as the representative of UNHCR in Yemen is to enhance collaboration with and support to authorities to fulfil their primary responsibilities to displaced Yemenis and refugees from elsewhere to ensure they are protected, assisted and able to rebuild their lives in dignity.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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