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The black flags of Ansar al-Sharia no longer fly over Abyan, but insecurity remains

Posted by African Press International on October 9, 2013

The black flags of Ansar al-Sharia no longer fly over Abyan, but insecurity remains


ADEN,  – A large-scale aid effort focused on rebuilding conflict-hit Abyan Governorate in southern Yemen is yielding positive results, but more than a year after al-Qaeda-linked militants were driven out, the police – and an accompanying sense of security – have yet to return.

Most residents have moved back though; markets have sprung to life, rebuilding work has begun and an international aid effort has helped people restart their lives.

With landmines largely cleared, and schools and hospitals being rebuilt, the attention for aid workers is now switching from emergency provision, to early recovery and livelihoods, even if many of the underlying challenges of security and development remain.

“This was the fastest return I’ve ever seen – I never thought this would happen,” Asif Hayat, head of Aden’s Mercy Corps office, told IRIN. “They [displaced people] started going back very soon and we even had to redesign our programme mid-implementation to do our distribution through the communities that had returned.”

Unlike the more protracted displacement crisis in the north of Yemen, internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had fled Abyan en masse to the neighbouring governorates of Aden and al-Lahj started returning in large numbers not long after government forces drove back Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) militants in late June 2012.

The latest IDP figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) show 162,253 IDPs have returned to Abyan since the crisis, while just 6,133 IDPs remained outside the governorate as of the end of April.

Insecurity hampers aid delivery

But the security situation is a major concern, and something that continues to hamper the delivery of aid in Abyan, especially following a perceived deterioration in security in the last six months.

In May, staff with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were kidnapped on two separate occasions within a few days. They have since cut back on surgical support at the main hospital in Jaar, even if they continue to provide medical support, and will hand over two rehabilitated hospital wings in mid-October.

“We continue to work and expand our programme where the security situation allows and with difficulties of access for international staff,” said Daniel Cavoli, head of the ICRC’s Aden sub-delegation, “but we’ve been able to implement our programme and are working hard to serve Abyan.”

The restrictions mean the monitoring of aid programmes is more difficult, and international agencies often depend on local partners to help implement projects.

“When you implement with locals you find it easier to penetrate,” said Manenji Mangundu, programme manager for Oxfam in the southern city of Aden. He said beneficiary villages are often best placed to provide security updates.

But he said the capacity of local partners can be limited, something other aid workers also said was an issue.

“The security fabric has not changed, which means travel for programme staff to the field is extremely restricted,” said Hayat from Mercy Corps.

“We are trying with remotely managed programmes with local implementing partners – local staff better able to move around. But this brings with it a lot of monitoring challenges and quality issues; our engineering projects require specialist monitoring and guidance.”

One strategy has been to introduce lots of benchmark payment mechanisms to keep a steady evaluation going of a programme’s implementation. But in areas like microfinance, lenders have been difficult to attract because they fear they will have few means of chasing up repayments.

Unpopular “Popular Committees”

On the road from Aden to Abyan’s capital, Zinjibar, after an initial police checkpoint, almost all the subsequent roadblocks are manned by members of the armed “Popular Committees”.

These were the groups co-opted by the government to help drive out Ansar al-Sharia militants, and they continue to be responsible for day-to-day law and order.

“They are the people in control of everything – they are police, judge, everything,” said Abdullah Masq Saleh, an IDP from Abyan still living in Aden. “No-one can say that security is returning to Abyan. There are no official security forces. We want a police station. There are only checkpoints of Popular Committees.”

The “Popular Committees” are varied in terms of their composition; some were local self-defence groups created by communities for their own protection against Ansar al-Sharia, others were motivated by a religious belief that al-Qaeda-allied militants were un-Islamic; while others were armed groups formerly allied to Ansar al-Sharia who agreed a truce with the government and switched sides.

The Committees’ situation remains ambiguous, not least because of their lack of uniforms and the limited funds they receive from the state. Aid workers complain that it is often difficult to differentiate the Committees’ forces (some of whom seem to be children), from tribal gangs, criminals, or even Ansar al-Sharia.

“This was the fastest return I’ve ever seen – I never thought this would happen”

“The Popular Committees are patrolling and they are the decision-makers, but they have no background in justice, in law – they are just taking their arms and acting as judges and police,” said Abdullah Mohammed Al-Jifry, an analyst who works with the Abyan Social Cohesion Organization, which tries to reduce community conflicts.

“The danger with the Committees is that even the communities are now complaining about them. The Committees themselves are sometimes in conflict with each other – and with the tribes as well.”

Al-Jifry said the Committees could only serve as a temporary stopgap until the government is able to provide a more professional service and also tackle the underlying issues that encourage insecurity, like the lack of development and the neglect of the governorate by the state.

Ansar al-Sharia was able to take control of Abyan and seek to establish what they called an Islamic caliphate in 2011 because of the weakness of the central government, which at the time was struggling to control Arab Spring-inspired protests. Some locals credit Ansar al-Sharia with establishing a degree of stability in Abyan because of its ability to impose order on warring tribes.

Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants remain active in the governorates to the east of Abyan and assassinations and attacks by various groups have spiked in recent weeks in major cities and towns across the country.

Some community leaders fear Ansar al-Sharia could return to Abyan, pointing particularly to the recent rise in the building of mosques that are not under the control of the state, and that could harbour extremists.

“We are still dependent on the Popular Committees for security, but the government has a very serious intention to bring back the police, hopefully this year,” Mahdi Hamed, head of the services committee on Abyan local council, told IRIN. “The committees don’t really have the capacity to rule everything.”

The head of the government’s Executive Unit for IDPs in the south, Col Abdullah Mohammed Al-Duhaimi, said things were improving: “The biggest problem was the security. Alhamdulillah [praise be to God], nowadays we can say that it is more than 90 percent better than it was before. Still we need very strong government intervention – it’s been very low so far.”

The local government recognizes that security has improved even if “it is not yet what it was,” says Hamed. But he does not see Ansar al-Sharia returning. “We just hope that these things never happen again. There’s no chance for war to come back – we don’t wish it and we don’t expect it. We’ve suffered more than enough. Abyan suffered and paid a lot.”

On the security front, major progress has at least been made on dealing with the issue of mines and unexploded weaponry. “Things are safer; life is going back to normal,” said Iskander Youssouf, who until recently was coordinating work in the south of Yemen for the Mines Action Centre (YEMAC). Since May 2012 they say they have cleared 10 zones of mines, removing around 80,000 mines and unexploded ordnance.

“Life is coming back”

The devastation caused by the fighting between the government and Ansar al-Sharia militants left few buildings untouched in the areas where fighting took place.

The humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, told IRIN it was vital to help people rebuild their homes and communities, and to give them the skills to earn a livelihood.

“What we are worried about is that these people will go back [to Ansar al-Sharia] again because we know from facts that al-Qaeda used to provide support to the families,” he said.

“So if these people don’t see any effort from the international community or from the government, and the government has very limited capacity now, they will go back as again more dangerous than before, and that could be an element that could make the whole [transition] process collapse.”

The immediate work focused on restoring water and electricity services in the towns and cities, and rebuilding the physical infrastructure. Many residents have now received partial grants from the specially-established Abyan Reconstruction Fund, although several people from Abyan complained to IRIN that the varying amounts people receive were unfair, and said corruption was rife.

A recent assessment by Mercy Corps suggested returnees’ appetite for non-food items (distributed in large numbers) was diminishing and the majority of those assessed stressed the importance of providing long-term livelihood support.

Humanitarian agencies like the ICRC, the International Organization for Migration, and Mercy Corps have been running cash-for-work projects and livelihoods training, including cleaning irrigation channels, providing fishing equipment and distributing seeds.

“There’s almost now an issue of overcrowding – it’s hard to find a beneficiary who hasn’t received some support,” said Mercy Corps’ Hayat. “As long as we can support a same family in different ways then I’m in support, but we don’t want us to train one person in mechanics, in farming and in commerce.”

But coordination has helped, he says. “The clusters here are very effective – I’d say they are the most coordinated I’ve come across.”

And Hamed from the local council in Abyan is also upbeat about the work done so far by UN agencies and others: “The infrastructure – everything in Abyan – has come back. The war destroyed almost everything. But now life is coming back.”

jj/cb  source


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Landmines and fear – Bringing peace, stability and aid

Posted by African Press International on July 27, 2013

SANA’A,  – More than three years after a tentative truce between the Houthi-led Shia movement in the north of Yemen and the government, humanitarian access is starting to open up in the areas still under the control of the Houthi militant forces.

Despite repeated skirmishes, the Qatar-supported ceasefire has largely held since February 2010, not least because of a shift in the military’s focus to the south, where Islamist forces seized parts of Abyan Province in 2011, and the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule in 2012.

While delivering aid in areas under the control of the Houthis, or Ansar Allah as they now call themselves, has never been straightforward, there are signs that the current peace is tentatively leading to better humanitarian access.

“The openness has happened in a gradual manner as trust has gradually been rebuilt,” said Hélène Kadi, head of field operations and emergency operations at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Yemen.

“Thanks to structured discussions, we have been able to increase our work in Sa’dah, even if there can still be issues with security, coordination delays and the unpredictability of the situation.”

In June, UNICEF started training 50 female volunteer teachers from rural areas in Sa’dah Governorate to work in girls’ schools. They have also trained 60 community leaders on nutrition, health, and water and sanitation (WASH), gave training to 22 communities’ midwives, and helped set up 25 new temporary classrooms in 10 districts in the governorate.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has had a sub-office in Sa’dah since 2007 and last year extended work to remoter areas of the governorate, said their spokesman in Yemen, Marie-Claire Feghali.

“We have started a better conversation with the Houthis in the north who, in the past, were very difficult in terms of accepting international assistance and particularly assessment,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.

“But now there is much more opening and better discussion, and trust is building up in the north.”

Landmines and fear

The Houthi movement has “de facto control” on the ground in Sa’dah Governorate, with their influence also spilling over into parts of Hajjah, Amran and Al-Jawf governorates.

Since the 2010 truce, Sa’dah has seen ups and downs in humanitarian access, with occasional outbreaks of violence between the Houthis (Shia) and Salafist (radical Sunni) groups.

Aid agencies have had difficulty carrying out assessments, faced restrictions on movement, and have had access limited by insecurity. Medical NGOs Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-Spain and MSF-France stopped operations in Sa’dah in late 2011.

“There is no open fighting. But there are risks from landmines, and there is still the fear of what might happen next”

The UN Humanitarian Air Service is sometimes unable to land in Sa’dah because of insecurity. On the ground, things are frequently tense, particularly in Kitaf District and Dammaj village on the outskirts of Sa’dah town.

“There is no open fighting. But there are risks from landmines, and there is still the fear of what might happen next,” one aid worker, who asked not to be named, told IRIN.

There are almost weekly reports of blasts from landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). Initial survey work on these explosive remnants of war has just started, according to this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan.

“We continue to see improvements in terms of access, and the authorities are cooperating. I wouldn’t say it’s improving day by day, but at least now we can sit down to plan an issue and address the situation,” the aid worker said.

At least 10 UN agencies and NGOs work in Sa’dah, with 67 projects planned for this year, mainly focusing on WASH, health, shelter and protection in 2013.

Too soon to return

The six rounds of fighting from 2004 to 2010 affected more than a million people. Some 227,000 continue to need humanitarian assistance in Sa’dah this year.

The conflict officially displaced 103,014 people (IDPs) within the governorate, and around 190,000 IDPs to surrounding regions.

Unlike in Abyan, where more than 90 percent of the 200,000 people displaced by the violence in 2011-12 have returned home, the IDP situation in the north is proving more protracted. Despite the truce, so far only 69,772 IDPs have returned.

Many of those reluctant to return cite security concerns, including revenge attacks and fears of a seventh round of fighting. Landmines also need to be cleared, homes rebuilt and livelihoods re-established.

“The displaced are hoping and willing to go back. But they don’t have livelihoods at the moment. They are really suffering. In the north, infrastructure, houses and farms have been destroyed – everything needs to be rehabilitated. The displaced cannot go back to nothing,” Mohamed Saad Harmal, assistant to the head of government’s Executive Unit for IDPs/camps, told IRIN in Sana’a.

Many in Sa’dah depended on seasonal work or smuggling over the nearby border with Saudi Arabia, but employment restrictions and the tightening of controls are making such work scarce.

If the provision of humanitarian aid in Sa’dah improves, and stability returns, large-scale returns could begin. But the lack of basic services is given by many IDPs as a key reason why they have not yet returned home.

Health facilities in Sa’dah struggle to attract qualified doctors and nurses, and there is little equipment to work with.

Around 8,000 families have returned to Sa’dah from Haradh, in neighbouring Hajjah Governorate, but they return to the Haradh area each month to pick up monthly food rations.

“One of the key issues back there is that there are no schools,” Mudhish Yahya, an IDP from Sa’dah now living in al-Mazraq Camp 1 near Haradh, told IRIN. “Some were destroyed. In some areas, there just weren’t any schools anyway.”

Save the Children is planning to include 15 schools in Sa’dah in their Child-Friendly School programme, which launches in September. They have also rehabilitated several health clinics, and they expanded health and nutrition programmes by 40 percent in 2012.

“The needs are huge here and are largely a consequence of destruction resulting from the six Sa’dah wars,” Save the Children’s country director, Jerry Farrell, told IRIN. source

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Internally displaced Yemenis hope the NDC will help them to return home

Posted by African Press International on July 11, 2013

Internally displaced Yemenis hope the NDC will help them to return home

SANA’A,  – Four months into their six-month mandate, the 565 Yemenis taking part in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) know they have their work cut out to agree the blueprint for a new Yemen.

While the drawing up of a new constitution ahead of presidential elections scheduled for early next year is the most immediate concern, many Yemenis look to the NDC not just to manage the political transition, but fundamentally to improve their lives in a country with deep humanitarian needs.

Nearly half the population do not have enough food, most (13.1 million) do not have access to safe water and sanitation, and nearly a million children are acutely malnourished, according to this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan.

“Our objective was to create a new country,” said NDC member Fuad Al-Hothefy from the Youth Revolution Council who took part in initial Arab-Spring protests against the then president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in early 2011.

“Before 2011, wherever you meet anyone in the world they mention Yemen with poverty, terrorism, corruption – all bad things.” He sits on the NDC “development” sub-group, one of nine such sub-committees.

Much of the work takes place in a luxury hotel on the outskirts of the capital Sana’a, but regional meetings to “meet the people” have brought political and community leaders face to face.

“When our people went to Aden [southern city] the population said `Go back, what are you doing here? You don’t even care, you don’t know what we’re going through’,” Nadia al Sakkaf, editor-in-chief of the Yemen Times and a member of the NDC, told IRIN.

“The people from Sana’a admitted it, and they said `Oh my God, we didn’t know!’ They were really shocked at the miserable conditions in which the people there are living. They are reporting on it daily saying that people are lying in the streets, almost lifeless, but not because they are dead but because they have no sense of living. And there’s a massive resentment building up.”

“What does national dialogue mean when you cannot even find food for yourself, when you cannot put your children in school?”, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, humanitarian coordinator

In the last few days thousands in the once independent south have again protested in favour of secession, accusing the government of neglect.

Poverty threatens transition

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, says that while the political process is moving forward, the security situation and humanitarian issues risk destabilizing the process.

“What does national dialogue mean when you cannot even find food for yourself, when you cannot put your children in school? Last year we had a major measles outbreak, so when you have these things, what does it mean for you to have a national dialogue, what does it mean for you [to have] a constitution?” he told IRIN.

“This is a country that has gone through 30 years of crisis, and 30 years of conflict, of mismanagement, of corruption… Let’s be frank, I mean the Yemenis themselves are very open about that today. So if these people don’t receive also assistance – on the health side, on early recovery, or in reconstruction of people’s lives – the whole process will collapse.”

The latest humanitarian bulletin published this week by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that “although the National Dialogue is key to ultimately resolving the crisis, it also runs a real risk of overshadowing the immediate need to maintain effective humanitarian assistance for the rest of 2013.”

While regional NDC fact-finding meetings seem to have been appreciated by Yemenis, including those displaced by fighting between government forces and Houthi rebels in the north, cynicism is rife regarding the ability of the NDC to find a solution to people’s basic needs.


“They come to the camp and sit with them. But the IDPs [internally displaced persons] say they know there’s a lot of hot air,” said Khalid Marah, assistant camp manager at al-Mazraq IDP camp, with Islamic Relief.

“We talk about the national dialogue, but people say `they are all liars.’ The IDPs say that they know it won’t be 100 percent successful. But they say they have to wait – they’re not losing anything. They’ve spent three years here and in another few months we’ll see what the situation is.”

High expectations

But in other quarters, the NDC is sometimes seen as a magic bullet that can end the conflict, insecurity and lack of basic development.

NDC has brought together a wide range of actors, including some from the southern secessionist movement and representatives of the Houthi rebels who hold sway in the northern governorate of Sa’dah.

In the northern town of Haradh in Hajjah Governorate, home to just over 100,000 IDPs from the conflict in neighbouring Sa’dah, the head of the local council, Sheik Hamoud Haidar, told IRIN he was looking to the NDC to bring peace and ensure IDPs return home.

“Inshallah, the NDC will provide the solution. Inshallah the NDC will come up with the solution.”

Mohamed Saad Harmal, assistant head of the government’s Executive Unit for IDPs in Sana’a, also sees the NDC as the key to ending displacement: “We have to be optimistic – there is no other option – else we’ll get lost. I told the National Dialogue that we only have three options – negotiate, negotiate and negotiate.”

That puts considerable pressure on the NDC.

“Many people they are waiting for the output from the NDC,” said NDC delegate Al-Hothefy. “Either we lead Yemen to be a good country, or we will fail. Most members of the NDC, I think, are working hard to achieve good results from this, but most people they expect a solution for everything.”

NDC factbox
565 members
– political parties
– civil society
– independent youth
– women (nearly 30 percent)
– Houthis
– Southern Movement
Time-frame: 18 March – 18 September 2013

Some are simply fearful that if the NDC does not succeed, the country risks falling back into civil war.


“I think there are too many hopes pinned on the National Dialogue, but that’s what the ND was supposed to do – it was supposed to resolve national issues,” said Yemen Times’s al-Sakkaf. She says Yemen’s problems are not new.

“How can you suddenly have a deforestation problem or a khat problem? We’ve always had these problems. Recognizing there are problems is the first step to a solution. 2011 helped us realize that we need to do something about them urgently – and it’s because we took sort of the power from the lazy leaders who did not want to do much about it.”

For the next two months, NDC delegates will meet in their hotel, protected from the food shortages and power cuts that plague much of Yemen. One aid worker wondered if, like the Somali peace talks, the meetings will drag on for years as delegates enjoy the benefits.

“What we’re doing in that five-star hotel is in isolation from the rest of the country,” said al-Sakkaf. “It’s a major risk because whatever we come up with – even if it’s the best constitution – the rest of the country will just throw it out because they will say `This doesn’t represent us. Where were you when we were starving?’”

Whatever comes out of the NDC process, say delegates, will only be pieces of paper which, however thoughtful, will ultimately have to be implemented by a future government.

jj/cb  source


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Despair at a migrant dead-end in Yemen

Posted by African Press International on June 29, 2013

Ethiopian teenage migrants taking part in a voluntarily programme to return home

HARADH,  – In temperatures in the high forties around 1,000 Ethiopian migrants, sweating profusely, turn their backs to Saudi Arabia and start the walk south – away from the Yemeni border town of Haradh and their dreams of a new life.

On the road they silently pass others heading north, still hopeful of crossing the border.

Haradh is at the crossroads of these dreams – a potential gateway to a new life in Saudi Arabia, but getting there is becoming increasingly difficult.

To get here, the migrants have endured considerable hardship; often taking on debt to fund the journey, walking for weeks to get to the East African coast and then crossing the shark-infested Red Sea.

Thousands get picked up by smugglers in Yemen who kidnap and torture them to extract ransom money.

Then, they reach what for many is the end of the road and their hopes: a dusty poverty-stricken town, 10km from an increasingly impenetrable Saudi Arabia.

“There’s a general feeling of depression. They come with dreams. Some just keep trying – they owe so much money”, Fatwa Abdok, psychiatrist, MSF

“There’s a general feeling of depression. They come with dreams. Some just keep trying – they owe so much money,” Fatwa Abdok, a psychiatrist working with Médecins Sans Frontières in Haradh, told IRIN.

She describes hearing testimonies of “torture you can never imagine” from those held captive by smugglers.

“Some of them are completely destroyed. Some get consumed just coping with it. It all depends on the strength of the person. Some recover when they have food and a place to sleep. Ethiopians are strong people, but some go crazy,” she said.

The numbers of arrivals in Yemen from the Horn of Africa in the last three years has doubled – from 53,382 in 2010 to a record 107,532 in 2012.

Ethiopians make up the majority of arrivals – up from 64 percent in 2010 to 78 percent last year.

The fence

“The Saudis have cracked down. The border’s not closed but it’s more difficult to get in,” said one aid worker who asked not to be named.

“You see the migrants on the road and they’re stuck. They trudge up to the border from Haradh. It’s an awful place. There’s nothing there. They trudge up to the border and they come back and they’re stuck.”

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia announced plans to resume construction of a 3m-high fence along its 1,800km border with Yemen.

Work on the controversial project initially started in 2003, but was suspended a year later. In 2008 a fence was put up along the coastal area around Haradh where much of the cross-border smuggling of people, drugs and weapons is concentrated.

In addition to the fence, Saudi Arabia has also cleared the border areas of settlements and uses floodlights and thermal detection cameras to try to stop the often heavily-armed smugglers.

Growing crisis

These restrictions have led to a build-up of pressure in Haradh and the surrounding Hajjah Governorate, where poverty is widespread.

The governorate, which depends on economic ties with Saudi Arabia, already supports more than a 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled neighbouring Sa’dah Governorate after the 2004 Houthi uprising and subsequent conflicts.

Some of the IDP families at the al-Mazraq IDP camps a short drive from Haradh rely on breadwinners in Saudi Arabia, but residents complain that the border restrictions have pushed them into poverty.

“We used to work in construction in Saudi, but now because of the fence, lots of Yemenis have been jailed there. Now there are video cameras and machine guns stopping us getting across,” said one camp resident, Saleh Hassan.

Recent changes to Saudi labour laws have also threatened tens of thousands of Yemenis with expulsion, which would further add to the country’s economic difficulties two years after the turmoil of the Arab Spring.

Press reports quoted government officials this week saying 53,000 Yemenis had been deported from Saudi Arabia since the beginning of June, and tens of thousands more are expected in the coming days.

Women migrants at the IOM centre in Haradh

Community leaders in Haradh say the new restrictions have led to a significant decrease in economic activity, making it more and more difficult for the town to support the tens of thousands of African migrants.

“We are afraid for the migrants because of the torture they often suffer, and also of them. Now with the fence up, they are creating more problems,” the head of the local council in Haradh, Sheik Hamoud Haidar, told IRIN.

“We are afraid of them because they are hungry. A hungry man is an angry man.”

Around 2,000 migrants have also been freed around Haradh in recent months following army raids on smuggling yards to free them from captivity. Deportations from Saudi Arabia also push African migrants back into Haradh – an estimated 40 percent of the 3,000 migrants using the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Migrant Response Centre in Haradh have come from Saudi Arabia.

“It is clear that it is the right of any country to close its borders to clandestine operations. Having said that, we are today faced with 25,000 people who are trapped in the border,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the humanitarian coordinator in Yemen.

“Every time there is a military operation, we discover another 500 or 700 who have been in this or that camp controlled by human traffickers and abusers. So the number is only increasing – 25,000 is something that Yemen today cannot absorb.”


The increase in demand for migrant services in Haradh this year came at just the wrong time for the supply of humanitarian relief services, which face cutbacks due to funding shortfalls.

IOM suspended large-scale repatriation flights in September 2012, and the World Food Programme’s provision of hot meals to around 3,000 migrants at the IOM centre was scaled back temporarily in January by 90 percent, though these have now been restored.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been working with NGO InterSOS and the Yemeni government in supporting a Child Protection Centre in Haradh, where IRIN met 50 Ethiopian children getting ready to fly back home.

“We were beaten, tortured and scarred by armed gunmen when we arrived in Yemen. We escaped and made it into Saudi Arabia, but we were caught,” said Saed Oumar Youssouf, 16.

“After a night in jail, and 12 nights elsewhere, we were shipped back to Yemen.”

All the children said they were looking forward to returning to Ethiopia. Preliminary registration for repatriation at the IOM centre in Haradh restarted at the end of May, and since early June 633 migrants have voluntarily returned on IOM-organised flights to Ethiopia, with places given as a priority to the most vulnerable.


IOM’s operations in Haradh are focused on the Migrant Response Centre set up in October 2010. It has voluntarily repatriated nearly 10,000 migrants since then, and treated 52,000 at the health centre, where they deal with 100-150 cases per day depending on the season.

New arrivals in Yemen
Year Total arrivals Ethiopians
2010  53,382 34,422
2011  103,154 75,651
2012  107,532 84,376
2013* 42,137 35,240
*up to 31 May                                                Source:UNHCR

“The numbers are just growing. Many of the cases we see are infectious diseases and diarrhoea; their immunity is very weak due to malnutrition,” said IOM’s doctor at the centre, Fadl Mansour Ali.

He said a large number of patients had malaria and other parasite infections, and also depression and anxiety.

Not everyone recovers. The morgue in Haradh has room for 17 bodies, but has been keeping around 50, almost all unclaimed bodies of dead migrants. The electricity supply is unreliable and the single generator repeatedly breaks down creating a terrible smell.

Korom Asmro Noqassa from the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia shares a bed with another patient inside the small cabin that forms the main part of the IOM clinic.

After four months in Haradh, he says he is ready to go home. “I wanted to go back as soon as I realized it was so hard to get across; back home maybe I can find a job and support my family. Most here want to go back home now,” he said.

“I’m going to tell people my own story. Smugglers cost money and aren’t reliable. But it’s very hard for people to say that they have failed.”

Changing perceptions

There is broad recognition that tackling the migration at source can really help reduce the suffering.

“IOM is talking about flying back 500 but by that time there will be another 2,000 here,” said Haradh local council chief Sheik Haidar.

“I’m willing to go to Ethiopia and Djibouti to explain how challenging migration is because the picture there now is that you can go to Saudi, [and you can get] thousands of dollars and dream jobs,” he added.

Conversations with migrants in Haradh suggest many think it will be socially difficult to explain their lack of success, and that means thousands continue to cross into Yemen with little appreciation of the risks and difficulties.

“The problem is that somehow at the origin people are not receiving the information. They are still thinking that this is an El Dorado and it will change their lives,” said Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

“The reality is that the border is now totally fenced or closed and the camps that are receiving them in Yemen are completely overwhelmed, so it’s a dramatic situation.”

He says part of a solution would be a regional conference between the concerned countries including Yemen, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia among others.

“It’s a case that has to be addressed with a sub-regional approach. The point is simply to say that it goes beyond the possible effort of the government of Yemen and the possible financial means and capacity of Yemen.”

jj/cb source


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Yemen: Living in a camp for internally displaced people has put Qasim and his family’s life on Hold

Posted by African Press International on May 27, 2013

IRIN News is proud to announce the launch of a new film, A Life on Hold, which tells the story of Qasim and his family, who for the past three years have been living in a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in northwestern Yemen.

Years of conflict in the region between the Houthi tribe and government forces have led to the displacement of more than 300,000 civilians, who have to cope with a decline in health and educational services. Malnutrition is common in the IDPs camps, as well as in the apartments, mosques and schools where many have found shelter.

Authorities have tried to encourage the displaced to go back to their homes, but renewed clashes in 2012 actually increased the IDP numbers in the north. Extensive damage to houses and infrastructure, continuing insecurity, fear of reprisals and the lack of livelihood opportunities and basic services all serve as deterrents to return.



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Remembering The Late Martine Vik Magnussen’s life and cherishing her.

Posted by African Press International on April 2, 2013

May her soul rest in peace. And may justice be done in the courts of law, after getting the killer to answer rape and murder charges. It is the wish and a right of every parent who loses a beloved child that justice must be done. Norwegian Martine Vik Magnussen who was studying in London was lured into a trap, raped and murdered. The British police have a suspect in the name of Farouk Abdulhak, who is a Yemeni national. He is tied to the murder as the only suspect because he was the last person seen with Martine as they both left a night club in London on the 14th of March 2008, the same day she died. Farouk reportedly escaped to Yemen the same day Martine was murdered and has since refused to return to London where he was schooling. The family led by Odd Petter Magnussen is working hard to ensure that their daughter gets the justice she deserves.

All parents should pray for this case so that the guilty may soon face the law.

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The Search for Justice: Martine Vik Magnussen did not have to meet a cruel death in the hands of a monster killer!

Posted by African Press International on March 29, 2013

Joining hands for Martine’s sake – the search for justice and the thirst for the truth to know what happened that fateful day in her London flat.

The late Martine was a charm and a good-hearted young lady. She deserves justice. Yemeni authorities must act in order to redeem their reputation of being unnecessarily influenced by wealthy individuals whose actions are the extension of promoting injustice.

Norwegian student Martine Vik Magnussen who was only 23 years old when she met her death in the cruel hands of a rapist and monster killer. The incident took place on the 14th of March 2008. years.

According to the British police, there is only one suspect in the name of Farouk Abdulhak (22), who reportedly left London soon after the crime was committed and is said to be now hiding in Yemen being protected by his wealthy father Mr Shaher Abdulhak. There is no extradition treaty between the United Kingdom and Yemen. At the same time Norway has no treaty with the said country either. This contributes to the difficulties in trying to get the suspect to answer the charges in the such for the truth and justice in this case.

The family of the late Martine has told African Press international that they do not seek revenge but are demanding that justice must be done sooner rather than later. The Late Martine Vik Magnussen, Norway (Prohibited - can only be re-printed on acquiring written permission. The Late Martine Vik Magnussen, Norway (Prohibited – can only be re-printed on acquiring written permission. Mr Odd Petter Magnussen, father to the Late Martine Vik Magnussen, Norway (Prohibited - can only be re-printed on acquiring written permission.) Mr Odd Petter Magnussen, father to the Late Martine Vik Magnussen, Norway (Prohibited – can only be re-printed on acquiring written permission.) Mr Odd Petter Magnussen, father to the Late Martine Vik Magnussen, Norway (Prohibited - can only be re-printed on acquiring written permission.) Mr Odd Petter Magnussen, father to the Late Martine Vik Magnussen, Norway (Prohibited – can only be re-printed on acquiring written permission.)

This is in reference to the message out there:

“UK authorities have recently outlined why there are compelling reasons that Martine case should be tried in the country of the crime.  The offence occurred on British soil at a time when both the victim and the suspect were student guests in London. Therefore there is a presumption that the case will be heard in UK jurisdiction.  The witnesses, forensic evidence, and physical evidence are all in the UK.  Finally, in terms of sentence, while the UK has abolished the death penalty, it still exists in Yemen.”

Watch the video and listen to Mr Magnussen’s loss after his beloved daughter Martine was murdered in London: This video may be shared – permission granted.

Accordingly “In a Norwegian documentary in 2009 the suspect’s lawyer confirmed that the suspect was living at home in Sanaa and that his father paid for legal and living expenses.  The father allegedly assisted his suspected son fleeing the UK after the murder in 2008 by taking him a board his private plane en route from Cairo to Sanaa. The father, with roots in Kenya, will always be associated with any outcome of the Martine case irrespectively of his son’s whereabouts.

And “The Yemeni Constitution prohibits a non-voluntary extradition of Yemeni citizens. However, it cannot be assumed that this constitution was meant to protect Yemeni criminals from law enforcement following crimes committed abroad. This would also be inconsistent with all religions including the focus in Islam on ‘justice, tolerance respect for human life and dignity’.”

As all would expect “Being a conservative Islamic state the present regime would achieve greater legitimacy by contributing to an ethical solution in the Martine-case.  Beyond the Yemeni Foreign Minister claiming the Martine case put an extra burden on the government, also growing internal pressure following the political situation in Yemen, and the Arabic Spring in general, is felt strongly. The main argument is that Yemen should avoid being regarded as a safe haven for international fugitives.”

In all fairness to promote justice “New social medias have made the world more transparent, and universal justice and legal rights have become mainstream concerns globally both politically and in a CSR-perspective. Multinationals are important opinion leaders here. An ethical solution to this case will create a precedence benefitting all parties involved. Yemen will benefit by contributing to improve international legal order and combat cross border crime. Legitimacy for receiving further military and financial support from US/UK would also increase following justice prevailing in a high-profile case of this nature.”

The need for filling a loop-hole in international law is also reflected by a new resolution put forward to the OSCE by Norwegian parliamentarians, and signed by 56 countries, last July. The resolution was based on the experiences from the Martine case, and aimed at reducing international serious crimes such as trafficking, drug dealing, money laundry, kidnapping, rape, murder or terrorism in today’s mobile world. Thus it is important for the Yemeni authorities to see the Martine case as an opportunity to combat ‘cross border crime’ rather than a challenge to it’s sovereignty. The mutual advantages for to-day’s world to progress here outbalance any costs associated with such change.

This is a high-profile case touching on three countries and “Being considered a matter of ethics, rather than a question of extradition treaties, the longer the fugitive is made unavailable for UK authorities the more this case will build momentum – also in the Arabic world.  It is vital to see any solution-scenarios in light of this new logic.”

Leaders should stick to the “Rule of law, human rights and respect for cultures, religions and universal values is the ethical axis of our existence. The Martine-case is a vital test for our aspirations and motivation to contribute to a more humane world based on the principles of peaceful coexistence between nations.”

Taking responsibility seriously and respecting human life“It is still a hope that the suspect will ensure justice prevails by meeting his obligations as a former guest student in the UK and return to the country of the crime.  In this way the two families could reconcile, which would reinforce the only sustainable global truth that national and international interests must go beyond personal interests in a case of this nature.

May Martine receive the justice deserved and her soul rest in peace for eternity!

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