More than 100,000 refugees from the Horn of Africa have flocked to Yemen this year despite a raging conflict in the country, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
As of mid-November, nearly 90,000 Ethiopians and more than 17,000 Somalis crossed the Gulf of Aden since January 1, according to the UN’s refugee agency.
Some are hoping to ultimately reach the oil-rich Gulf states and find work, while others are pursuing an indirect route to Europe, UNHCR spokesman William Spindler told reporters in Geneva.
Many “may be deceived or ill-informed about the severity of the conflict in Yemen”, he added.
The fighting in Yemen intensified dramatically in March of last year when a Saudi-led coalition began an aerial offensive in support of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi against the Houthi rebels and their allies, including Iran.
The war has killed more than 7,000 people and displaced more than three million others.
But Ethiopian and Somali migrants have continued to head there by a perilous sea crossing “rather than stay in poverty or face persecution and insecurity at home,” Spindler said.
UNHCR said it had reports that upon arriving in Yemen refugees have faced physical and sexual abuse as well as torture and forced labour.
At least 79 people have died while attempting to cross the Gulf of Aden, the UN agency added.
Despite the continuing violence, migration into Yemen rose this year compared with 2015, when 92,000 people from the Horn of Africa made the boat crossing.