Written By: Mohammed al-Kibsi
Article Date: Oct 21, 2011 - 5:40:22 PM
Somali refugees fleeing famine and violence are flocking into Yemen at an increasing rate, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.
Between January and July, Somali arrivals into Yemen averaged 1,600 people per month, but this increased to 4,500 in August and 3,292 in September, despite unrest in Yemen.
"The increased influx is adding pressure on Yemen and UNHCR," spokesman Andrej Mahecic told a news briefing, adding that the United Nations agency had received only half the $60 million it needs to fund its operations in Yemen this year.
"Our resources are currently strained by the increase of the Somali refugees but also by the internal displacement in Yemen," Mahecic told Reuters.
The UNHCR estimates around 196,000 Somali refugees are now in Yemen, most having risked their lives to cross the Gulf of Aden on smugglers' boats. A conflict in Yemen's Abyan governorate has displaced more than 97,000 Yemenis, in addition to some 318,000 from Sa'ada governorate in the north, it says.
So far this year, more than 318,000 Somalis were forced to flee their homeland due to the deteriorating situation, the majority going to Kenya and Ethiopia, according to the UNHCR.
The UNHCR further warned that insecurity in Yemen would breed opportunities for human traffickers and smugglers along the country's Red Sea coast.
"Reports of abductions of migrants or refugees upon arrival to Yemen persist, mostly for ransom or extortion," Mahecic said. Another worrying trend is the prevalence of abuse and sexual assaults of female refugees and migrants while at sea, he said.
Yemen said that hundreds of Somalis contributed with al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula in the fights between Yemen forces and al-Qaeda in Abyan province.
Reports from Sana’a the capital of Yemen say that some Somalis took part in the fights in Sana’a as snipers recruited by defected army and Islamic militias.
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