Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2018, 16:20 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Yemen

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2003
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Yemen , 1 June 2003, available at: [accessed 22 February 2018]
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 the end of 2002, Yemen hosted about 81,700 registered refugees, the biggest non-Palestinian refugee population in the region. The overwhelming majority were Somalis (79,000), followed by Ethiopians (1,500), Iraqis (229), Palestinians (149), and small numbers of refugees from Eritrea, Sudan, Syria, and elsewhere. An additional 2,300 had pending asylum claims. Moreover, more than 5,000 Sudanese and 2,000 Iraqis not registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also lived in Yemen during 2002.

Refugee Status Determinations

Yemen is the only party to the UN Refugee Convention in the Arabian Peninsula. In 2002, Yemen had no domestic asylum or refugee laws, but UNHCR was advising the Yemeni authorities on national refugee legislation. In the meantime, UNHCR continued to conduct status determinations. During the year, UNHCR granted refugee status to 108, including 48 Iraqis, 26 Palestinians, and 24 Ethiopians and registered some 2,300 asylum seekers, including 914 Ethiopians, 506 Iraqis, 458 Sudanese and 254 Palestinians.

UNHCR assisted 51 refugees with resettlement to third countries in 2002, including 20 Somalis, 10 Ethiopians, and 7 Iraqis.

Refugees from Somalia

Somali refugees continued to flee their war torn country to Yemen, crossing the Gulf of Aden in often perilous journeys. Some 1,200 Somalis continued to arrive to Yemen every month and were temporarily accommodated in the Mayfaa transit center prior to their transfer to Al Kharaz camp. In May 2002, the Yemeni government and UNHCR started the joint registration of 35,900 Somali refugees. Most live in the Sana'a and Aden prefectures.

Instead of individual status determinations, UNHCR granted prima facie refugee status to Somalis unless the agency determined that individual protection concerns necessitated their resettlement. According to UNHCR, 52 Somalis voluntarily repatriated in 2002.

Other Refugees

By the end of 2002, there were 2,040 UNHCR-recognized refugees and another 2,300 registered asylum seekers in the country. There were also 1,485 refugees and 913 asylum seekers with pending claims from Ethiopia, including 650 registered Ethiopian refugees of Oromo ethnicity who were living alongside 9,700 Somalis in the Al Kharaz camp. UNHCR recorded only nine voluntary repatriations of Ethiopians during the year.

In addition to the 706 registered Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers, UNHCR said there were another 2,000 Iraqis who had not registered claims. Some 506 Iraqis had pending claims, while 288 were denied.

The number of UNHCR-registered Palestinian refugees and asylum seekers is around 1,100, but there were more who were not registered.

There are 168 recognized Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers. However, in May 2002, the UNHCR Geneva headquarters announced that Eritreans will no longer be considered refugees as of the end of 2002, due to the end of the war there. UNHCR said it would continue to assess the claims of individuals who sought asylum beyond 2002. Those found still to be in need of international protection might yet remain in their host countries as refugees.

Assistance to Refugees

While the protection situation for refugees is satisfactory in Yemen, poverty prompted irregular movements to the Gulf countries. UNHCR provided limited assistance and basic health care to around 10,000 refugees living in camps. Some 65 refugees voluntarily repatriated from Yemen and 51 resettled to third countries.

There were also 468 Yemenis who were voluntarily repatriated from Syria during 2002.

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