By: Abdullah Bakhash
SANA'A, June 10 (Saba) - The continuation of the influx of African refugees to Yemen confuses the performance of the government and adds economic and security burdens.
The Reporter of the National Committee for Refugees at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Abdullah Dahan talks about the nature of the challenges facing Yemen because of the continuation of illegal migration to Yemen and its effects on economy, society, security and the homeland sovereignty. He also talks about guarantees must be made to solve this issue to avoid complicating challenges and difficulties.
The illegal migration from the Horn of Africa and smuggling Africans to Yemen
Illegal migration means the entry of a person into a country illegally for economic and social reasons or because of draught. But illegal migration could be ordinary if it is by limited number and does not affect the hosting country as it happens with neighboring countries like the countries of Latin Americans and countries of East Asia and as Yemenis migrants did while migrating to Africa and Asia.
However, illegal migration could turn into a big problem to the hosting country and threatens its national security when the numbers of comers increases randomly like the situation in Yemen during the past years when the daily number of Africans arriving Yemeni coasts reached 70-100 daily. Unfortunately, state concerned bodies did not follow up these numbers.
If the total number of the refugees and illegal migrants is estimated at 500 thousands between 2006-2013, adding to them an equal number arrived Yemen between 1991-2005 this means the number of the refugees and illegal migrants exist in Yemen has exceeded one million. The illegal migrants constitute the highest percentage as it increased from 15 percent in 2006 to 80 percent in 2013. The number of illegal migration is estimated at three thirds of the refugees' number and that means if there are 250 thousands are registered in the UN High Commission for Refugees, there are 750 thousands migrants are not registered at the commission or any government concerned body.
Yet, the illegal migration from the Horn of Africa to Yemen is considered dangerous on Yemen and the Gulf countries because Yemeni territories are considered transit station to its neighbors. Actually, small numbers succeed to infiltrate to neighboring countries or settle in a third state and the majority remains in Yemen, which represents a challenge to the government to deal with.
Effected results on the homeland sovereignty and stability
Given the difficult and security situations in Yemen currently, illegal migration and refuge have three major effects; economically, hosting migrants for long period is a burden to Yemen. If one migrant needs USD 1800 every year, this means that Yemen spends USD 1.800 billion on one million refugees and migrants, in addition to negative effects on local labors. Socially and healthily, the increasing number of refugees and migrants pose pressure on the basic services, which are already insufficient to Yemeni people. In addition, bad customs and traditions, as well as dangerous infectious diseases, like aids, are spread. Security, the infiltrating criminals or terrorists among migrants contribute to the increase of crime, prostitution, forgery, looting and terrorism, as well as increasing smuggling networks. All these represent a rising danger on the national security and add security burdens on the government.
Local, regional and international solutions to solve this problem
The best solutions to the illegal migration from the Horn of Africa to Yemen are implementing the Migration Regional Conference's (held in Sana'a on November 2013) outcomes. There is big reaction from the regional countries, especially gulf countries that showed readiness to help Yemen. The Yemeni government seeks to organize forthcoming meetings with the participation of representatives of countries and organizations participated in 2013 conference aiming at discussing and preparing mechanisms for the implementation of Sana'a conference's outcomes.
Challenges facing Yemen in fighting crime resulting from the influx of illegal migrants
The continuation of migrants influx from the Horn of Africa to Yemeni coasts confuses the government performance and increases the burdens because of Yemen's limited capabilities to control the long Yemeni coasts reaching 2500 Km and the deceleration of the international community in solving the disputes in the Horn of Africa , especially re-building the Somali state. Despite the concerned international accords call the international community to share the hosting countries the responsibility, foreign support spent on refuge and migration programs in Yemen is still humble, especially after the Arab Spring and the international community's focus on refuge in the region like Syrian refugees.
Guarantees to avoid the doubling of these difficulties
The major guarantees to avoid the doubling of these difficulties could be summed up as supporting government concern bodies entrusted with dealing migration issues, especially Migration and Passport Authority and the security apparatus and judiciary to crack down on human traffickers and punishing them, completing security deployment plan on Yemeni coasts and creating database to new comers and subjecting them to medical tests.
The guarantees must include also regional cooperation to solve dangers resulting from migration and refuge and combating cross-border organized crime, supporting Assisted Return Programs and adopting awareness campaigns on the danger of migration in societies of exporting countries.
Protection of national security while keeping individual rights
Yemen can protect its national security while at the same persevering individual rights via enhancing regional and international cooperation and best investing Yemen's foreign relations, as well as response of donors in providing necessary support to promote the capabilities of government's bodies and rehabilitating their cadres. Establishing an independent government body for refuge and migration affairs in Yemen, creating sheltering camps in border areas, enhancing state existence there, improving performance of security via providing them with modern systems and rising operational budget are also other key steps to protect the national security.
There are a number of positive indicators resulted from Sana'a conference; the government took a number of measures helped in reducing the numbers of Ethiopian migrants to Yemen during the last quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year and the implementation of the Yemeni and Ethiopian governments, in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration and a number of donor countries, of the Assisted Return Programs to thousands of Ethiopian refugees. However, big numbers of refugees want to return but need financing.
There are also communications between the governments of Yemen and Somalia, which showed readiness to organize Assisted Voluntary Return programs to Somali refugees with the help of donors to prepare suitable return conditions.