About 65,000 refugees resided in Yemen in 1997, including an estimated 53,000 from Somalia, 2,500 from Eritrea, 2,000 from Iraq, 1,300 from Ethiopia, and 6,000 Palestinians. Yemen is the only country on the Arabian peninsula to have signed the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol, but has not established laws or procedures to adjudicate refugee claims. Refugees from Somalia About 9,000 Somali refugees arrived in 1997. UNHCR provided full assistance to 8,660 Somalis at the Al-Gahin camp, located about 140 km east of Aden. Plans to relocate Al-Gahin did not come to fruition in 1997, though Yemen reportedly agreed to establish a permanent refugee settlement at Kharaz, where the refugees from Al-Gahin would be relocated in 1998. Nearly 29,000 Somali refugees lived in urban centers, such as Sana'a, Aden, and Ta'iz, and received partial UNHCR assistance. Yemen has granted neither citizenship nor permanent resident status to about 15,500 Somali refugees who claim to be of Yemeni origin (out of some 35,000 Somalis claiming to be of Yemeni origin who entered between 1992 and 1996). UNHCR does not assist them. About 300 Somali refugees voluntarily repatriated in 1997. Other Refugees Most of the Eritrean refugees were located along the Red Sea coast. Their situation in Yemen seemed to improve in 1997 as the conflict between Yemen and Eritrea concerning possession of Hunaish Island was submitted for international arbitration. UNHCR fully assisted 430 Ethiopian refugees at the Al-Gahin camp. Another 912 Ethiopian refugees resided in urban areas. Information is scanty regarding Iraqi refugees in Yemen. UNHCR estimated 2,000 Iraqis as "people of concern." The U.S. Department of State estimated their number at 20,000. Most have not registered specific refugee claims with UNHCR, but are unwilling to return because of conditions in Iraq. In addition to Somalis, 19 Ethiopians and 8 refugees of other nationalities voluntarily repatriated in 1997. Seventeen refugees, including 11 Iraqis, were resettled in third countries. Restrictive Measures In October, the government announced that it had deported about 20,000 illegal immigrants and refugees since 1995. It did not explain what it meant by "deporting refugees" or how many of the total deported might have been refugees. Most of the deportees reportedly have been Ethiopians. Generally, improperly documented foreigners are arrested and held in local jails before being transferred to Sana'a for deportation proceedings. In Sana'a, they are held in a separate immigration detention center. In May, an Al-Quds al-'Arabi reporter interviewing the Yemeni foreign minister alleged that Yemen had turned over Saudi oppositionists to Saudi Arabia. The foreign minister responded by saying that no Saudi oppositionists were in Yemen, but if they were, and if the Saudi government requested their extradition, the Yemeni government "would have handed them over to them." USCR wrote to the government asking for assurances that Yemen would "assess the refugee claims of any Saudi oppositionist in compliance with the requirements of the Refugee Convention before considering the extradition of any such person to Saudi Arabia." The government did not respond. During 1997, Yemen conducted a trial in absentia for 16 leaders of the Democratic Republic of Yemen who fled abroad following the 1994 civil war. (About 5,000 Somalis arrived in Yemen by boat in the first three months of 1998. UNHCR estimated that some 220 Somalis drowned en route to Yemen during that time.)

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