Yemen receives over 10,000 new arrivals by sea since start of conflict in March

UNHCR Yemen Representative says smugglers often trick refugees into returning while conflict ongoing.

Exhausted survivors of the Gulf of Aden crossing wait for help on a beach in Yemen.  © UNHCR/J.Björgvinsson

GENEVA, July 14 (UNHCR) - Thousands of people have been tricked into going to Yemen since the start of the current conflict in March, according to the latest figures made available by the UN refugee agency on Tuesday (July 14).

UNHCR Yemen Representative Johannes van der Klaauw said the agency had recorded some 10,500 new arrivals, a mix of returning refugees and those fleeing conflicts elsewhere in the region, to Yemen since the start of the conflict on March 26, but said thousands had also fled the country.

"Since the start of the year, over 37,000 refugees and migrants have arrived by sea, the majority from Ethiopia as well as Somalis and other nationalities," he told a press briefing in Geneva. "Many are tricked into making the journey by smugglers who tell them that the conflict is over and all is safe in Yemen."

He added that those making the sea crossings faced the usual risks of such journeys - abduction, attacks, drowning, exploitation and sexual assault. However, due to the ongoing conflict and reduced access in general, UNHCR and its partners were unable to take arrivals to urban centres to receive assistance.

To discourage crossings, he said mass information campaigns were now planned for Puntland and Somaliland and other points of departure.

"At the same time, over 51,000 people have fled Yemen for Djibouti, Somalia, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Sudan," van der Klauw added.

The number of internally displaced Yemenis has increased four-fold since the conflict began, with 1,267,590 Yemenis now displaced within their own country. The largest concentrations are of internally displaced people (IDPs) are in Hajjah (298,788); Al Dhale (227,414); and Aden (184,100).

UNHCR noted that Yemenis are demonstrating great resilience and solidarity as up to as many as four fifths of those displaced, are living with host families.

In addition, UNHCR figures show there are approximately 250,000 mainly Somali refugees in urban centres in Yemen. However, due to the fighting, many have been displaced from Aden to Kharaz camp and towns in southern Yemen.