The IPNA immigrant holding facility in Sana'a, Yemen has suffered from overcrowding.AFP
As the dangers for migrants in Yemen intensify against a backdrop of conflict and the COVID-19 crisis, nearly 5,000 Ethiopians stranded in Yemen are waiting for their chance to safely return home, the UN news center reported Wednesday.
This week, about 300 migrants are scheduled to depart Aden for Addis Ababa on two Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) flights run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The Organization hopes to continue at this pace, operating two flights per week until the end of the year and plans to expand VHR to other places such as Ma’rib where the conflict persists.
"Since the start of the pandemic, migrants in Yemen have been pushed even further into the shadows," said John McCue, IOM Yemen’s Deputy Chief of Mission.
"We call on donors to make more significant contributions to this crucial lifeline which provides thousands of stranded migrants with their only chance to escape a dangerous situation and make their way home," McCue said.
An estimated 32,000 migrants are stranded in dire conditions in the country mainly in urban transit hubs due to COVID-19 mobility restrictions which have impeded their journeys to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
These restrictions have meant that smuggling networks on this route are not as lucrative as they once were. To make up for financial losses, some are adopting alternative ways to exploit migrants and make a profit.
Some migrants are forced to work off their debts on farms while others are exposed to gender-based violence (GBV) and abduction for ransom. The vast majority lack access to water, food, sanitation and health care.
Many migrants have become increasingly desperate to return home. Since May 2020, an estimated 18,200 in Yemen have made the perilous return journey by sea to Djibouti or Somalia, using the same network of smugglers they used heading to the Arabian Peninsula. Dozens of migrants have drowned this year after overcrowded boats capsized.