Interview by Stephen Coats The Yemeni American news
The world, largely does not acknowledge that it exists but there is a crisis in Yemen. Conflict, war, death, and millions of innocent people fleeing for their lives. We are watching and our hearts are breaking to see the intense pain and suffering. The United Nations won’t admit that there is a crisis in Yemen in regard to refugees. The Yemeni American News asked the President of NAYA, AbdulHakem a. Alsadah to explain to us the issues involved.
“Yemen was in a chaotic situation before the war led by Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Arab states. That war plus the internal conflicts added to a huge migration from Yemen and reached a maximum internally, where according to the United Nations, latest figures estimate 3 million “displaced” people. They call them “displaced”, which means basically that they are not refugees because they are still within the borders of Yemen. The United Nations, according to them and their apparatus in Yemen, are doing everything they can, but there is not an international awareness about the crisis.
This crisis has led to Yemenis fleeing the country. According to the United Nations latest figure for this month (August 2016) that number has reached 400-450 thousand. About 380,000 in the horn of Africa, the countries of Djibouti, Ethiopian, and Somalia. We believe that there is closer to 600-700 thousand refugees. Because in Saudi Arabia, for example, they do not call them refugees. The number according to the United Nations, that Saudi Arabia has about 36-40 thousand refugees because they have been registered as refugees. The truth of the matter is, there is at least 100-150 thousand because of the closeness of the borders. But because of the involvement of Saudi Arabia in the war they don’t call them refugees, they call them ‘guests’.”
For clarification, to be considered “refugees” according to the United Nations they have to be outside the country?
“You have to be outside the country, inside the country they are called “displaced.” The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR.org) will give you the latest statistics. Though we appreciate what the UNHCR is doing, we don’t think it is enough. In our view the problem is of such magnitude that it is a crisis right now. The United Nations have registered about 176,000 refugees, some in the horn of Africa countries. When we asked the UNHCR why the number is small, they say, ‘well there is a process, you have to be registered and processed to be called a ‘refugee’ and to receive assistance as a refugee.’
We have tried to contact our Secretary of State, and frankly speaking there is an ambiguous attempt not to cooperate, not to work on these issues, and last year the United States accepted just 16 Yemenis as refugees and this year have accepted only 17. So the United States has basically accepted 34 refugees and we think this is not enough, in fact, this is a shame that a country like the United States would not allow Yemeni refugees, at least those who have families here.
So what can Americans do about this issue?
We urge everyone to write their representatives and senators to ease the process for Yemenis with American families to come to this country, especially those who are in the horn of African. We urge everybody to contact the UNHCR to ask them to expedite the process for Yemenis. We think that currently because of the continuation of the conflict in Yemen we’re going to see more and more refugees and we need to see actual programs implemented to help the Yemenis.
We want people to contact the White House to force their partners, Saudi Arabia and the coalition to lift the sanctions on flying, to let people fly, this is a basic human right. The country is basically closed. The only humanitarian agency, Doctors Without Borders, that was serving in the country, because Saudi Arabia and the coalition hit their hospital 6 times they decided to withdraw from Yemen. So that tells you the misery people are going through.
Due to the isolated physical location of Yemen, at the lower end of the Arabian Peninsula, where do Yemeni’s in distress seeking refuge go?
There is only the sea, the horn of Africa, that’s why the United Nations estimates anywhere between 300-400 thousand in these countries. They are going by boats, in fact, this is the only way out.