MARIB, Yemen – Migrants from countries in Africa have been traveling to war-torn Yemen in search of better economic conditions, while some harbor hopes of being able to reach Saudi Arabia.
For many of the migrants, who have traveled from their home countries in the Horn of Africa region, notably Somalia and Ethiopia, the long journey involves a risky voyage across the Gulf of Aden aboard a smuggler’s boat, before arriving on the shores of Yemen.
But Yemen finds itself gripped in a four-year conflict that the United Nations has described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
“As the conflict enters its fourth year, more than 22 million people – three-quarters of the population – need humanitarian aid and protection,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said of the situation earlier in the year.
After arriving on a beach in Yemen, migrants can walk hundreds of kilometers on foot through the desert landscape in order to reach towns or cities.
A group of migrants who had traveled to the western city of Marib, about 172 kilometers (106 miles) east of the capital Sana’a, told an epa-efe journalist they had walked over 500 km from the coast of the southern Shabwa province, grasping water bottles as they journeyed through the dry conditions.
In Marib, they eat leftovers from local restaurants in order to survive and spend their nights sleeping by the roadside.
Some of the migrants said they were going to move onto other cities, such as Aden in the south or nearer-by Sana’a before carrying on to Saudi Arabia.
In contrast to those coming to Yemen in a quest for a better life, many Yemenis have been forced to flee their home country owing to insecurity there.
In March, a boat carrying 140 refugees from Yemen to Sudan via the Red Sea was fired at by a helicopter, leaving a number of Somalis dead or injured, an assault that was condemned by the UN.
According to UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) data, there were 280,692 people seeking refuge in war-stricken Yemen, “mainly having fled the Horn of Africa,” while 190,352 Yemenis have fled to neighboring countries like Oman, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Sudan.