Young migrants survive a near-death experience crossing war-torn Yemen

Sana’a  – Exhausted, hungry, lost and scared. This is how most migrants feel arriving in Yemen.  

“I did not have any assistance. When I arrived in Yemen, I was sleeping on the sidewalk – frightened, starving and ill,” recalled Bilal Muhammad, an 18-year-old Ethiopian migrant who recently found himself stranded in the country.

Bilal is one of thousands of migrants whose dream of a new life opportunity in nearby Gulf countries was shattered by the conflict and COVID-19-related movement restrictions. He has become, along with 32,000 others, stranded in Yemen, living in extreme dire conditions.

Despite his young age, Bilal left his mother and three brothers back home in Ethiopia and decided to embark on the perilous route to Yemen, in a hope to find a good income source in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that would allow him to provide a better life for his family.

“I travelled from Ethiopia to Djibouti, then crossed Yemen’s sea to Shabwah’s coast, moved to Aden governorate, then travelled on foot to Sa’dah governorate,” he said.

With the recent loosening of restrictions on international movements, migrant arrivals into Yemen have started to show a slow increase, although the overall numbers remain low compared to pre-pandemic years.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that in 2019 over 138,000 migrants arrived in Yemen, while just over 37,500 came in 2020. Thus far in 2021, the Organization has recorded more than 11,500 migrant arrivals to the country.

Migrants who manage to arrive in Yemen continue to face significant barriers in accessing the humanitarian services and employment necessary to survive. The pandemic and persistent conflict have pushed them further into the shadows and left them reliant on smuggling networks to get by.

Mennatallah Homaid, IOM Yemen Communication Assistant, Source: IOM

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