Saturday

4th Dec 2021

Yemen's refugees in 'appalling conditions', says UN agency

  • The war in Yemen has also affected its 130,000, mostly Somalian, refugees (Photo: Krar Almoaed/Dietrich Klose)
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Somali and Ethiopian refugees in war-wrecked Yemen are living in dire conditions, with many stuck in a country once labelled as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"They are stuck in Yemen in appalling conditions. As a refugee, you are at the bottom of the social scale," said Jean-Nicolas Beuze, the UN refugee agency's representative in Yemen.

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Speaking to EUobserver earlier this week, Beuze said many have taken the dangerous Gulf of Aden sea-crossing to Yemen in an effort to flee conflict and misery at home.

"Who in their right mind actually goes to Yemen? It speaks to the fact the situation back home is so terrible that there's no other option," he said, noting that the vast majority are from Somalia.

Once in Yemen, many are often exploited.

Yemen currently hosts some 140,000 refugees and asylum seekers, according to figures provided by the UN agency.

Although Sweden is known to take in Ethiopians from Yemen, efforts to resettle Somalis to Europe appear to have stalled.

Most are instead sent to the United States, which has traditionally taken in the bulk of UN resettled refugees.

This comes on top of a Yemeni population itself wrecked by six years of war, around two-thirds of whom are need of some form of assistance for survival.

Another four million are internally displaced. And five million out of 30 million are a step away from famine, noted Beuze - who was in Brussels to help shore up funding from donors including the EU and Belgium.

"We are only 60 percent funded," he said. It means that out of every ten families in need of help, only six will be assisted, he pointed out.

Last year, the agency's Yemen budget hovered around €212m.

"Over the last two years there has been no funding from Echo [the European Commission's directorate-general for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Operations] to the UNHCR," he said.

But Beuze said the commission's humanitarian branch, DG Echo, is now likely to partner up with the UN agency in Yemen in an effort to deliver protection needs to the population.

"It's a protection crisis, it's one where families get displaced, children risk to step on land mines," he said.

The EU has distributed around one billion euros since the war started in 2015, covering everything from humanitarian aid to development assistance. The UN agency is also getting funding the United States and the Gulf states, including the Saudis who are themselves engulfed in the conflict.

"The Saudis provided quite substantive funding, without necessarily any more requirements or specifications, of any other donors," said Beuze.

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