African refugees still in pursuit of secure country

1 Nov
African refugees are still looking for a safe place after the clashes in Yemen broke out late in May. The UNHCR in Yemen, however, said that they claim that they are not safe in order to find a country other than Yemen.

Malak ShaherPublished:29-09-2011

SANA’A, Sept. 27 — Abdul Rahman Aman, 34, an Ethiopian refugee who fled the deadly conflict there ten years now faces a similar fate in Yemen.

“Since the situation escalated in Yemen and the war started in Al-Hasaba district [where Aman lives], I left my house to sit-in in front of the UN office in Yemen until they find a solution,” said Aman.

Aman and other African refugees are in danger now not only because they are Yemeni citizens but also because of the color of their skin.

Recently, media outlets have made allegations that the Yemeni army recruited Somali snipers to target protesters, most recently in the fatal demonstrations in the capital, Sana’a, on September 22. Although this news has not been verified yet, the rumor was enough to be used as discrimination against residents of African origin, according to Musa Al-Nemrani, the spokesman of the Human Rights organization HOOD.

Al-Nemrani said that discrimination against the African refugees in Yemen has increased since the uprisings in Yemen began. The organization has received numerous claims from African women who were sexually harassed. African men have also increasingly been victims of robbery.

He said that the Somalis, who were seen throughout Yemen in large trucks, were accused of being sent to participate in the uprisings. Al-Nemrani said that these trucks are used only to smuggle the Somalis into the country but not to participate in the demonstrations.

“These people fled their own countries to escape from conflicts. They would not be part of the conflict in Yemen,” Al-Nemrani  said.

The refugees, who have been sitting-in at the UN office in Yemen, were accused of using the current situation for their own favor.

According to Nabil Othman from the UNHCR, the African refugees who have been calling on the UN to find a solution for them actually want to go to countries outside Yemen. Othman said that these refugees “claim to be victims of the uprisings in order to push the international community to help them find a country to live in other than Yemen.”

He said that the number of refugees in front of the UN office on Baghdad Street varies from 100 to 200. They arrive in the morning and leave at night.

According to Othman, the UNHCR has offered to them two new centers to live in, in Al-Rebat and on the 50 Meter Streets, but they insist on pressing for a new arrangement.

Abdul Rahman Aman said that he and the other refugees now face greater pressure because it has become more dangerous now even in front of the UN office. Last week, several protesters were killed near the office.

Aman, who used to live in Al-Hasaba Street, has been staying on the streets until he can find a more “secure place to live.”

The problem of accusing dark-skinned people of being used as snipers has accumulated to reach out Yemenis of African mothers.

Another dark-skinned Yemeni man, who preferred to remain anonymous, was forced by armed men to show his identification. His mother is Ethiopian. He said that he was “suspected to be one of those allegedly recruited by the regime as a sniper.”

He works in a Hotel in Hadda street. He claimed that even the Somalis working in wiping cars were asked to show their IDs, as they were suspected of having been recruited to kill people.

HOOD spokesman Al-Nemrani said that the growing fear of dark-skinned people may have negative consequences in the long-run, creating the impression that Yemeni society does not tolerate foreigners and isolating the country even further from its regional neighbors.

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