Discrimination in Yemen against Oromo Ethiopians and Eritreans

04.04.2012 - Sana’a - Tony Henderson

Our correspondent covering the Horn of Africa, Mardassa Addisu, sent the foregoing mini-report to Pressenza, also, the contents of a letter received, posted from Yemen. Mardaasa also sent a report from Human Rights Watch detailing further what is going on in Yemen. Below is the petition from the refugees to the UNHCR.

Dear UN Refugee Agency
March 21, 2012

We are Oromo Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers with UNHCR recognition in Sana’a Yemen. Our petition to UNHCR Geneva is to bring a sense of urgency on humanitarian grounds to our plight in Sana’a Yemen.

For months, we have been in front of UNHCR Sana’a office pleading to the local staff to help us with our security and basic needs. Amongst our group are young children, elderly, women and the sick. Each time we have reached out the UNHCR Sana’a office, they have told us to leave the grounds or they will have Yemen security forcibly remove us.

With the current volatile state in Sana’a Yemen, most of refugees and asylum seekers have nowhere to go. We were persecuted in Ethiopia and now experience persecution in Yemen. Our plea to the UNHCR office in Geneva is to provide greater protection and advocacy to the refugees and asylum seekers.

Our security issues range from violence committed by Yemen Security forces, opposition groups and rebels. Military security forces have attacked us at least twice in 2011 resulting in deaths and injury to many. Children and newborns have also died from a result of hardships.

Many of us left our home countries due to persecution by the Ethiopian government. The Ethiopian government accused us of opposing them resulting in extrajudicial abductions and killings by their forces.

Those of us, mostly Oromo ethnic group, who escaped the persecution in Ethiopia sought protection and peace in other countries. Sadly, we faced human rights violations in neighboring countries, including women being raped by smugglers.

Through our journey, many who were smuggled out with us died on the journey before reaching Yemen’s coast. An untold number drowned in the Gulf and Red Seas. Once on the coast of Yemen, officers immediately arrested refugees. Women and Men were separated and put into private jails. While in prison, men and women were sexually assaulted by officers who claimed they were looking for money. Some of the women were raped and children were sexually assaulted by Yemen officials.

These same officials forced victims to contact their families to pay ransom for their release. Some family members were told to pay $500 for the release of their relative. Refugees have been tortured to death, some by crucifixion, particularly those that are Christian.

Refugees that do not have money end up disabled while others suffer with long term medical problems. Community members suffer [in every way] from blindness to psycho-social, [all] related to torture. Women who are attractive end up sold as sex slaves to Saudi or Yemen farmers as part of the long running human trafficking rings.

Refugees have experienced human rights abuses starting from Ethiopia to the journey to Yemen. Many of us were tortured in Ethiopia and faced similar violations on our journey. Coast guard and check point guards rob, detain and torture refugees. Those of us who were detained were
put in prisons that are unfit by any standard. Refugees have experienced repeated deportation. Some of our community members are no longer accounted for and feared killed by the Ethiopian government.

We arrived in Sana’a Yemen to apply for UNHCR Yemen regional office for RSD. UNHCR Protection office accepted us as refugees and asylum seekers. Yemen government proclaimed that they do not recognize Ethiopian Oromo and refugees of Eritrean background.

UNHCR provided us with documentation stating that the government of Yemen does not recognize us, thereby depriving us protection and our basic human rights – including execution of our community members. Yemen government and military security forces come by our places of
work and arbitrarily arrest us without reason. Some Yemen security have robbed our community members, while others are detained and tortured in prison.

Due to the agreement between the Ethiopian and Yemeni government, many of our people are deported and tortured in Ethiopia. Members of Al Qaida have committed crimes against us, with
authorities cooperating with them. Community members have been kidnapped, raped, sexually assaulted (including children) and executed by locals. Police have in many cases allowed these acts without enforcing the rule of law. When victims report the crimes, police tell them they have no rights. Those community members that do not have Arabic names are not allowed to marry as it is in Yemeni law that you must be Muslim to get married.

Without legal recognition, then you are deprived of renting a home with a wife. Those that attempt are charged with prostitution. The same level of discrimination applies on education
and burial of the dead. If you do not have an Arabic name, then one cannot go to school. A refugee is not allowed place of burial unless they change the person’s name to Arabic.

Oromo are targeted by the Ethiopian embassy especially those of us who follow Oromo indigenous religion.

Some Yemeni Sheiks claim that we spoiled their community and county. They say our women are prostitutes and drinkers and that we brought HIV to their country. These same Sheiks
prohibit Oromo Muslims from worshipping in Mosques. Religious extremist target our community members. Property owners evict renters without cause on the basis of being Oromo. Employers have fired refugees unjustly and sometimes without pay. Life in Yemen is very
difficult for refugees and asylum seekers. Refugee Woman and children suffer while working as house maids. Women work for very low wages often times being mistreated by the wives of the landowners.

Yemeni government is also restrictive on our movements. Refugees and asylum seekers are fearful of moving to other locations as we are targeted by locals and government. During the
civil war and uprising, we faced continual persecution at the hands of Government and rebel groups.

Over the years, we have asked for UNHCR Sana’a protection and solutions. The national staff has not provided any solutions. Instead, they called Yemen police resulting in death and injury of some. We have also learned that national staff has prevented our case files from reaching international staff. Instead of getting a solution, we feel like we are under house arrest.

As refugees, we have been persecuted by locals and government officials through human rights violations. After being evicted, many of the refugees ended up in front of UNHCR protection office as a means of gaining protection through solidarity with other refugees and asylums seekers.

We have been here for nine months seeking protection. Many of us were persecuted outside
of the UNHCR protection office. Yemeni gunmen robbed us, women were raped, and some of us were shot or injured by local Yemen.

On July 3, 2011 and July 4, 2011, it was understood that the local staff requested Yemeni Security to use gas, water or use guns to force us to leave. Some of our community members were killed by Yemeni security. We are outside the UNHCR protection office with women and
children vulnerable to hostile conditions.

UNHCR Sana’a should protect us in accordance with the organizations’ mantra “One refugee without hope is one too many.” 1 seul réfugié privé d’espoir c’est déjà trop.”

In Yemen, there are hundreds of recognized refugees and asylum seekers that remain without hope.

Human Rights Watch has done several reports on the abuses against refugees in Yemen, which include sexual assault, rape and human trafficking.


Categories: Human Rights, Middle East


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