Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2017, 10:48 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Yemen

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2000
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Yemen , 1 June 2000, available at: [accessed 21 November 2017]
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.


At year's end, Yemen hosted almost 60,000 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection, including 49,384 Somalis, 6,000 Palestinians, 2,494 Eritreans, 1,275 Ethiopians, and small numbers of refugees from Iraq, Sudan, Vietnam, Algeria, and elsewhere. Although this is 8,700 fewer than counted in 1998, the decline resulted from a new UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) refugee registration and did not necessarily reflect an actual reduction in the number of refugees during the year.

In fact, Yemen experienced a net influx of 7,455 Somali refugees in 1999. Smaller numbers of refugees of other nationalities, including 101 Sudanese nationals, also arrived in Yemen during the year.

An additional 29,000 persons in refugee-like conditions lived in Yemen in 1999. These included about 22,000 urban Somalis who are not registered with UNHCR, about 5,000 Sudanese, and 2,000 Iraqis.

Refugee Status Determinations

Yemen is the only country on the Arabian Peninsula to have signed the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol. Although Yemen had no domestic asylum or refugee laws in 1999, it permitted UNHCR to conduct status determinations.

During the year, 866 asylum seekers submitted individual applications for refugee status with UNHCR, the largest numbers coming from Ethiopia (242), Sudan (201), and Iraq (201). Another 134 Palestinians also applied for refugee status. UNHCR decided the cases of 436 refugee claimants in 1999, granting refugee status to 115 individuals, an approval rate of 23.6 percent.

Refugees from Somalia

UNHCR registered 9,311 Somali asylum seeker arrivals in Yemen during 1999. Most crossed the Gulf of Aden in boats in an often perilous journey that reportedly cost several hundred refugees their lives when their makeshift boats sank. Unlike asylum seekers from other countries who received individual status determinations, UNHCR granted prima facie refugee status to the Somalis.

UNHCR provided full assistance, including food, shelter, medical care, schooling, and job training to about 12,400 Somalis at the Al-Gahin camp, located about 87 miles (140 km) east of Aden. UNHCR reported that the continued influx of Somali refugees in 1999, in addition to some 14,000 Somalis who arrived the previous year, strained its ability to assist newcomers. UNHCR and the Yemeni government announced plans in 1999 to relocate Somalis from the Al-Gahin camp to a new site in the Lahaj governorate.

Another 36,000 Somalis lived in urban centers, such as Sana'a, Aden, and Ta'iz. Most had reportedly integrated into urban areas and were no longer receiving food or financial assistance in 1999. They were eligible for partial assistance, however, including medical treatment at UNHCR clinics in Aden and Sana'a, and for small income-generating loans for refugee women.

According to UNHCR, 1,856 Somali refugees voluntarily repatriated in 1999. Another 4,000 Somalis, mostly from urban areas, indicated a desire to repatriate, but unsettled conditions in Somalia continued to impede their return.

Other Refugees

The situation and number of Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees, Yemen's largest refugee groups next to Somalis, changed little in 1999.

During the year, 56 Eritrean asylum seekers filed refugee claims with UNHCR. Of these, UNHCR recognized 2 as refugees, rejected 15 cases, and had yet to decide 39 other cases at year's end. Five Eritreans voluntarily repatriated during the year, leaving 2,494 Eritrean refugees in Yemen at the end of 1999, mostly living along the Red Sea Coast.

Some 242 Ethiopians applied for refugee status with UNHCR in 1999. UNHCR recognized 9 as refugees, rejected the applications of 73, and had yet to issue decisions on the claims of 166 Ethiopian asylum seekers at year's end. Another 17 Ethiopians voluntarily repatriated from Yemen in 1999, and 11 resettled to third countries. Some 1,275 Ethiopian refugees lived in Yemen at the end of the year.

Information is scanty regarding Iraqi refugees in Yemen. At the end of 1999, 118 Iraqis were recognized as refugees. UNHCR continued to monitor the situation of 2,000 other Iraqis who had not registered refugee claims, but were believed to be living in refugee-like circumstances.

Restrictive Measures

Throughout 1999, the Yemeni coast guard continued to interdict boats carrying migrants. Since 1994, the government reportedly has deported about 24,000 improperly documented immigrants, most nationals of various Arab countries but also including Somalis and Ethiopians. Yemeni authorities reportedly consult UNHCR prior to carrying out deportations.

In March, the head of Yemen's passport, immigration, and naturalization authority announced that Yemen would no longer permit Algerians, Egyptians, Libyans, Sudanese, and Tunisians to enter Yemen unless they arrive directly from their country of origin. The decision reportedly aimed to block the entry of fugitives, especially Muslim fundamentalists, from third countries.

In October, Yemen reportedly deported several Ethiopians, allegedly members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), whom Yemen suspected of recruiting and training Ethiopian refugees to fight for the OLF against the Ethiopian government.

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