SANAA, March. 12 (Saba) -In 1980 the Yemen Arab Republic became - and remains to this day - the only country on the Arabian Peninsula to sign the 1951 Refugee Convention as well as the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1967.
However, already before the 1980s, Yemen accepted refugees from the Horn of Africa, while the first group of new arrivals fled the Eritrean War of Independence from the 1960s onwards, later refugees came primarily from Somalia.
The migration to Yemen continued unabated. By 2013 Ethiopians constituted the majority of migrants to Yemen and made up 83% of the approximately 120,000 new arrivals of 2016. Migrants pay smugglers several hundred Dollars (between 100 and 500$) to cross the Gulf of Aden and then several hundred more to reach Yemen’s northern border.
For another 800$ they are smuggled across the border to Saudi Arabia, which remains the main destination for the migrants, since 2015, with the current war in Yemen, the way into Saudi Arabia has become more difficult and a new route opened up with migrants crossing the Red Sea in Northern Yemen in order to reach Sudan and from there travel on to Egypt, Libya and, finally, to Europe.
On their way, migrants face horrible conditions. Besides the overall deteriorating situation in war-torn Yemen, migrants are frequently mistreated by their smugglers. Since the trafficking of humans - often alongside the smuggling of weapons and oil - has become such a lucrative business, the smuggling networks have no interest in migrants making the journey on their own.
Due to the worsening security situation in the country, African migrants as well as Yemenis increasingly leave Yemen, while the African migrants return home, the Yemenis are left with only few options, the countries on the Horn of Africa are not attractive and Arabic countries are hard to reach due to the blockade imposed on Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition.
Nevertheless, there are several thousand refugees from Yemen living in countries such as Somalia, Eritrea and Egypt, and, most importantly, Jordan. While the UN has registered 12,500 Yemenis in Jordan, their actual number could easily be twice as much, the number of Yemenis looking for a better life abroad is likely to rise as the situation deteriorates, for the time being, however, their number is easily dwarfed by the three million internally displaced persons.
Last year, nearly 100,000 migrants entered Yemen, a country gripped by conflict and the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
The majority start out from Ethiopia, and some from Somalia, and usually head to the Gulf in search of work, with Saudi Arabia being the top destination. People embarking on this route are typically under 25, but many are children.
It is almost impossible to travel this route (Ethiopia-Djibouti-Yemen-the Gulf) without enlisting a smuggler at some point and if a migrant tries to go it alone at all, they are putting themselves at greater risk because it's "bad for business" for the vast smuggling networks.
Many migrants, including young people, suffer appalling treatment from cruel smugglers and other criminals, including physical and sexual abuse, torture, kidnapping for ransom (from families who can't afford to pay), arbitrary detention for long periods of time, forced labor, trafficking and even death.
In Yemen, migrants also often get caught up in the conflict, sustaining injuries or even dying from shelling, and some are taken to detention centers.
No migrant should be held in detention, especially children, and IOM, the UN Migration Agency, advocates for their closure and offers its support to the authorities to improve conditions, in Yemen, we currently only have access to two detention centers out of an unknown total.
These are worrying similarities to the horrendous abuse that migrants face on the Central Mediterranean Route from West Africa through Libya to Europe, but migrants in Yemen only attract a fraction of the world's attention and demands for protection and support. Not to mention the lack of funding from the international community.
For example, did you know that that thousands of migrants were stranded in or near the frontlines of the recent military offensive on Yemen's busy port city of Hodeidah?
However, during 2017 we have been able to track 87,000 migrants in the country through our Displacement Tracking teams, and provide humanitarian assistance to more than 33,000 migrants.
As thousands of migrants enter Yemen, IOM is helping many get home, offering safe and dignified passage funded by Germany and the Czech Republic . However, the situation they face when they get home is far from ideal.
The number of irregular migrants traveling from the Horn of Africa to Yemen and the Gulf is far greater than the amount heading from the region toward Europe, but it is far less talked about. We want to change that and bring the world's attention to where it needs to be, in the hope that it will lead to more support for migrants in this part of the world too.
Written by Mona Zaid