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UN agency help Ethiopians escape Yemen war

Due to the ongoing conflict in Yemen, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) assisted 159 stranded Ethiopian migrants to return home from Djibouti to the capital, Addis Ababa.

 The returnees included 131 individuals stranded in Djibouti en-route to Yemen and 28 people evacuated to Djibouti from Yemen by sea. None had the means to return home to Ethiopia, IOM said in its press statement.

The group included five women – one of them pregnant – evacuated from Yemen, and 37 unaccompanied minors stranded in Djibouti.

Of the returnees, 131 travelled by road and the remainder by air. Prior to their departure, IOM provided accommodation at its transit centers in Djibouti and Addis Ababa. On arrival in Addis Ababa, IOM transferred the unaccompanied minors to a centre for family tracing and reunification.

Thousands of Ethiopians are currently believed to be stranded by the fighting in Yemen and in need of evacuation. IOM Ethiopia is working with the Ethiopian government and its offices in Yemen and Djibouti to evacuate the most vulnerable and provide post-arrival assistance.

In a related development IOM said on last week that it expects to undertake initial evacuation operations from Yemen within the next few days. The Organization plans to begin evacuating the first of at least 11,000 migrants for whom multiple requests for assistance have been received since the start of hostilities earlier in the week.

“We have been in contact with various government representatives who, concerned with the safety of their nationals in Yemen, have called on IOM to help evacuate them”, said Mohammed Abdiker, director of IOM’s Department of Operations and Emergencies.

Mr. Abdiker cautioned the main issue remains getting necessary commitments from the parties to the conflict to ensure transport assets may enter and leave Yemen unhindered and that migrant groups will not become targets of military activity or other forms of violence while efforts get under way to evacuate them.

“We are negotiating with several stakeholders in the region the possibility of establishing an air bridge where migrants could be brought to safety, before arranging their onward travel to countries of origin, Mr. Abdiker explained.

So far, IOM has received requests from dozens of governments, from Europe, Africa and Asia, accounting for over 11,000 migrants who require immediate evacuation assistance. IOM runs one of its largest operations in Yemen, with over 200 staff members at several locations, who continue implementing relief programmes despite deteriorating circumstances.

IOM offices across the Gulf of Aden have also reported that groups fleeing violence in Yemen have arrived by their own means in Djibouti and Somalia. IOM is working with its partners across the Horn of Africa to provide emergency assistance to those individuals too.

IOM’s Director General has approved the release of an initial USD 1 million from IOM’s Migration Emergency Funding Mechanism in order to kick-start operations. In order to support the initiation of evacuation operations and related activities in countries of both transit and origin, IOM is appealing for an initial USD 10 million.

“Once again, this crisis exemplifies the acute vulnerability faced by migrants whenever a conflict or natural disaster breaks out. Stepping in to provide life-saving assistance to these groups is the raison d’etre of IOM, and I do hope the international community will be swift to respond to our appeal, both in opening their airspace and borders to this complex operation, as well as in contributing financial resources to this appeal”, said IOM’s Director General, William Lacy Swing

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