A time of Hardship and Agony: Somali citizens stranded in Yemen

Published: April 13, 2015

A time of Hardship and Agony: Somali citizens stranded in YemenTens of thousands of Somali citizens are currently stranded in Yemen, many in conflict-zones, leaving family members thousand of miles away concerned for their safety.
For two decades, Somalis fleeing their failed state found in Yemen a safe haven, a place to work, and a gateway to wealthier Gulf States risking one of the world’s most dangerous boat journeys across the Gulf of Aden.
More than 540 people have died and 1,700 have been wounded in Yemen since March 19, the World Health Organization has said. At least 74 children had been killed since the coalition strikes began  – though the real figure is thought to be much higher – and more than 100,000 have been displaced, the UN said.
Evacuation out of a conflict zone is no easy exercise: multiple governments and actors are involved, the lines of communication are not always direct and open, the environment is unpredictable; circumstances are beyond one’s control and even the slightest delay or lapse can lead to major problems.
But while other countries have scrambled to evacuate their nationals in Yemen by the thousands, the Somali Federal government has delayed to speed up the process while countries such as neighbouring Kenya have went on to seek from other nations like China and India to assist the withdrawal of their nationals from the strife-torn country.
One of the stranded Somali citizens in Sana’a told local media outlets that they are facing “difficult humanitarian, health, and security circumstances”. He pointed out that amongst the stranded are entire families and children.
Though the exact number of Somalis stuck in Yemen is unknown, hundreds of people in Somalia and abroad have expressed concern about loved ones in the middle-eastern country.
While trouble has been brewing in the strategic Arab country for nearly five years, the turmoil grew into a full-blown regional conflict as Saudi Arabia started bombing Houthi rebels, who had forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee in February.
The stranded man questioned the establishment of embassies and consulates if they cannot provide assistance to the citizens of their countries. “What is the army of ambassadors, diplomats, advisors, and employees doing? I appeal to the authorities in Mogadishu to promptly evacuate and transport the stranded Somalis, before we perish.”
Last week, the government announced that it will send a ship to the port town of Aden for evacuation but it did not specify will the ship will be dispatched. Others questioned how a ship can be enough to evacuate tens of thousands people.
Abdullahi Ahmed, a Somali student pursuing his degree studies expressed his disappointment on why the government has failed to evacuate them when much smaller countries with much less stable governments have been able to evacuate their nationals.
‘’We are angered by the Kenyan government for failing to provide means to evacuate us back to our homes. Are we not true Somalis that deserve to be helped?”
In the last two weeks, hundreds of citizens managed to escape the violence by themselves. They travelled by small boats all the way from Yemen coastal town of Mukalla, arriving in stable regions in Northern Somalia of Puntland and Somaliland.
“Somali citizens have been effectively abandoned in Yemen,” Maryam Ali told reporters, when safely arrived in Puntland’s commercial hub city of Bossaso days ago. “No one helped us come here. I’m happy to be back, but at the same time I feel saddened by the situation of others still left behind.”
‘Somalis facing more danger’          
Their plight was made worse as the Somali government publicly announced that it is supporting the Saudi-led military offensive against the Houthi rebels.
Ahmed said that ever since the government revealed its involvement in the operation, Somalis are confined in their homes for fear of being targeted or killed.
‘’ Why should the government do such things while it knows that many citizens are still living in the country? Now we are afraid that the rebels who control here will hunt for us and retaliate on the government’s decision,’’ he says.
Though there was demonstrations by the Somalis opposing the government’s decision, Ahmed believes that they are still in danger.
‘’ Some of my friends living in other neighbourhoods told me that Houthis supporters were very angry to hear that and luckily they were not harm them but still we are a prime target,’’ he added.
Hussein Farah
Horseed Media

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