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04 August 2020 – Yemen

New York Times, “African Migrants in Yemen Scapegoated for Coronavirus Outbreak,” 28 June 2020,
New York Times, “African Migrants in Yemen Scapegoated for Coronavirus Outbreak,” 28 June 2020,

Although it has been devastated by ongoing civil war and famine, Yemen has continued to serve as an important migrant and refugee transit country–with many people often enduring torture, rape, and extortion, as well crossfire and airstrikes. In 2019, the IOM estimated that some 138,000 migrants departed from the Horn of Africa to Yemen in the hope of finding jobs as housekeepers, servants, and construction workers in oil-rich neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

During the pandemic however, thousands of migrants have found themselves stranded in the country, witnessing growing anti-migrant sentiment and stigmatised as carriers of the virus. Unable to leave the country, more than 14,000 (the majority of whom are Ethiopians) have been rounded and forcibly moved away from urban centres (although it remains unclear whether these round-ups were conducted by Iran-allied Houthi rebels or Saudi-backed government forces). Many are reported to have been abandoned in empty buildings or forced to live on the streets, while others have been confined in detention facilities where they face overcrowding, lack of access to medical services, and inadequate food provision.

Others have reportedly been shot by Houthi militia in an attempt to force migrants out of the area they control–with some forced across the border into Saudi Arabia, where they have also subsequently faced arrest, detention, and deportation (see 14 April update on Saudi Arabia). At one point in April, humanitarian organisations estimated that some 20,000 migrants had been abandoned in “slaughter valleys” along the Yemen-Saudi border, with no food, water, or aid.