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Stranded Ethiopian migrants flown home from Yemen

By AFP - Apr 13,2021 - Last updated at Apr 13,2021

ADEN — Some 160 Ethiopians stranded in war-torn Yemen were flown home Tuesday, after a spate of tragedies involving people from the Horn of Africa trying to travel to and from oil-rich Gulf countries.

In recent weeks, dozens of migrants have died in the Bab Al Mandeb Strait, which separates Djibouti from Yemen and is a key passage for international trade but also for trafficking and illegal migration.

“One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen,” said the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which worked with authorities in the southern city of Aden to transport the group.

The UN agency said in a statement that more than 32,000 migrants, mainly from Ethiopia, were still stuck in the country.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, the IOM’s director for operations and emergencies.

Since May 2020, more than 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa “on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers”, the UN agency said.

Migrants travel to Yemen in the hope of reaching Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, whose booming economies rely on the labour of millions of poor foreigners.

They often find themselves stuck in Yemen, a country engulfed in war and in the grip of what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

“Those travelling on the flight today are lucky that they had a safe option available to them,” said Olivia Headon, IOM spokeswoman for Yemen.

“We need governments to come together along this migrant route to help us increase the number of people who can get home safely,” she told AFP.

At least 42 migrants died off Djibouti on Monday after their boat capsized on its way from Yemen, according to an updated IOM toll.

In October 2020, at least eight Ethiopian migrants died in similar circumstances in an attempt to reach Djibouti.

And in early March, 20 migrants died while trying to reach Yemen and travel onto Gulf nations.


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