Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 12:25 GMT

Yemen: No ID, no registration as an IDP

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 8 April 2010
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Yemen: No ID, no registration as an IDP, 8 April 2010, available at: [accessed 1 June 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

SANAA, 8 April 2010 (IRIN) - After an arduous three-day walk from Jabal Dukhan, a mountain straddling the Yemen-Saudi border, Nasser Mohammed and his family hoped to receive aid in one of the three al-Mazraq camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Yemen.

But five months on, he and his family have not managed to gain entry to, or any help from, any of the camps, because none of them have ID cards.

He, his wife and seven children fled their village amid the sounds of Saudi fighter planes and heavy shelling as clashes intensified between the Saudi army and Houthi rebels.

"The Houthis came to us and said if you don't join us we will kill you," Mohammed, aged 35, said on arrival at one of the camps in Haradh District, Hajjah Governorate. "We fled immediately."

"My family lives with another family while I live in a hut [just outside al-Mazraq camp three]," said Mohammed. "We survive on handouts and from begging."

"When we left we didn't bring anything. There was fighting all around our area. When the war starts suddenly, you run."

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has identified at least 100 families (about 700 individuals) in Haradh who, like Mohammed's, do not have any form of identification and as a result cannot be registered as IDPs, and gain eligibility for food aid and shelter in the camps. Some aid agencies put the figure at 300 families.

Several aid agencies have advised the authorities not to rely solely on ID cards to register people as IDPs, as some cannot comply with the stringent registration procedures.

"It leaves out people," Nathalie Karsenty, UNHCR's senior protection officer, said. "And we have raised that issue with the authorities."

Registration process

IDP registration is done by 12 staff in an office operating under Hajjah Governorate authority, which coordinates with the government's Executive Unit for IDPs to maintain a database of all IDPs. UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) use the database as a tool for the distribution of aid.

"At first we didn't ask for ID, but relied on other IDPs verifying that someone was a genuine IDP by listening to accents," said Hashim Mohammed al-Hamli, manager of the Executive Unit. "But we noticed that IDPs registered in several places and non-IDPs were also being registered."

After that, the authorities made ID cards - whether personal, family or "as a minimum" election documents - a requirement for registration.

However, in Yemen not everyone has ID cards and many who fled their homes left them behind.

Falling through the cracks

"It's usually the weakest that fall through the cracks - like the widows, separated or orphaned children and older people," Karine Ruel, a UNHCR team leader based in Haradh, said.

"I am not happy with this," said al-Hamli. "I would like to help everybody that turns up to register for food and shelter, but we have to limit it."

UNHCR has advised the local authorities to make use of the Verification Committee under the Executive Unit for IDPs, which validates IDPs through interviews, rather than relying too heavily on ID cards.

"The important thing for us is whether they have fled the conflict in Saada," Karsenty said.

According to UNHCR, 137,000 IDPs are registered in Hajjah Governorate, of whom 30,000 live in the three al-Mazraq camps. The latter receive a tent, mattress, blankets, kitchen set, water bucket, plastic sheet, soap powder and sanitary towels from UNHCR. Each IDP also receives 2,100 kilocalories of food a day from WFP.

The Yemeni government stopped registering IDPs at the end of March.

"Maybe they want people to go back again," said Abdulrahman al-Khawlani, Haradh manager of the Charitable Society for Social Welfare, a Yemeni NGO and UNHCR implementing partner. "But people are afraid to go back. They are afraid of the mines and that war will break out again."

In the meantime IDPs like Nasser Mohammed are stuck outside the camps unable to receive any assistance.

"I go every day to explain that I am an IDP and see if we can get help, but they ask me for my ID, which I don't have," said Mohammed. "And I cannot go back - it's not safe."


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