Yemen: High-level visit to review UNHCR's operations, raise awareness
UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Ms. Erika Feller, and our Geneva-based director for the Middle East and North Africa yesterday began a five-day mission to Yemen to review our operations in the country. The visit is also intended to raise awareness about the continuing arrival of mixed population movements by sea across the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa and the challenges faced by the government and aid workers in Yemen.
The two UNHCR officials will meet with various Yemeni authorities and travel to Sana'a, Aden and along parts of the 300-km coastline to get a first-hand impression of the situation on the ground. They will visit UNHCR's refugee camp in Kharaz near Aden - home to nearly 9,000 refugees. They will also visit our refugee reception centre in Mayfa'a, near the coast, and various sites where thousands of irregular migrants and refugees continue to arrive after risking their lives to cross the Gulf of Aden aboard boats operated by ruthless smuggling networks.
In 2006, UNHCR records show some 26,000 people making the voyage and at least 330 dying. Another 300 were reported missing and believed dead. In January, the numbers arriving on the coast declined because of rough seas and a crackdown on the Somali side, but then began to rise again by the end of the month as new drop-off points were found by the smugglers.
Since the first of the year, more than 2,500 people have landed on the Yemeni coast, with at least 136 people dead and many still missing.
Yemen is a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. It has kept its doors open for refugees and migrants who have been arriving for several years from war-torn Somalia and other places. Yemen has also been very patient in awaiting more support in recognition of its generosity and in the spirit of burden-sharing.