Yemeni refugees in ‘dire conditions’, says UN agency

Somali and Ethiopian refugees in war-torn Yemen live in dire conditions, and many are trapped in a country that was once called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

“They are trapped in Yemen in appalling conditions. As a refugee, you are at the bottom of the social ladder,” said Jean-Nicolas Beuze, representative of the UN refugee agency in Yemen.

Speaking to EUobserver earlier this week, Beuze said that many have taken the dangerous sea crossing from the Gulf of Aden into Yemen in an effort to flee conflict and misery at home.

“Who in their right mind really goes to Yemen? It speaks to the fact that the situation at home is so dire that there is no other option,” he said, noting that the vast majority are from Somalia.

Once in Yemen, many are often exploited.

Yemen is currently home to some 140,000 refugees and asylum seekers, according to figures provided by the UN agency.

Although Sweden is known to host Ethiopians from Yemen, efforts to resettle Somalis in Europe appear to have stalled.

Instead, most are sent to the United States, which has traditionally hosted the majority of resettled UN refugees.

This is in addition to a Yemeni population devastated by six years of war, around two-thirds of whom need some form of assistance to survive.

Another four million are internally displaced. And five million of the 30 million are on the brink of famine, said Beuze, who was in Brussels to help shore up funding from donors such as the EU and Belgium.

“We are only 60 percent funded,” he said. It means that out of every ten families that need help, only six will be cared for, he noted.

Last year, the agency’s budget in Yemen was around 212 million euros.

“In the last two years there has been no funding from Echo [the European Commission’s directorate-general for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Operations] to UNHCR, “he said.

But Beuze said the commission’s humanitarian arm, DG Echo, is now likely to partner with the UN agency in Yemen in an effort to protect the population.

“It is a protection crisis, it is one in which families are displaced, children run the risk of stepping on landmines,” he said.

The EU has distributed around 1 billion euros since the war started in 2015, covering everything from humanitarian aid to development aid. The UN agency is also raising funds for the United States and the Gulf states, including the Saudis who are embroiled in the conflict.

“The Saudis provided quite substantial funding, without necessarily further requirements or specifications, from any other donor,” Beuze said.

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