8 migrants dead as UN fears ‘inhumane treatment’ in camps

RIYADH: The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen raided a drone facility used by Houthi rebels at an airbase in the capital Sanaa, a spokesman said. The coalition has ramped up attacks on such sites after the Iran-aligned rebels warned last month they could launch attacks against the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which lead the military coalition against them.

The latest raid late Wednesday targeted “drone maintenance sites, a communications system and locations of drone experts and operators” at the Al-Dulaimi base adjoining the airport in rebel-held Sanaa, the official Saudi Press Agency quoted coalition spokesman Colonel Turki Al-Maliki as saying. The Houthi-controlled Saba news agency said 13 air strikes targeted the base and airport. The coalition last month said it targeted a cave in Sanaa used by Houthi rebels to stockpile drones.

The raid came after the coalition reported last month that Saudi air defenses had intercepted two drones launched by Houthi rebels that targeted Khamis Mushait, home to a major airbase in the southwest of the kingdom. And in January the Houthis launched a drone attack on Yemen’s largest airbase, Al-Anad, north of the southern port of Aden, during a military parade. Eleven people were wounded in the attack, including Yemen’s deputy chief of staff Major General Saleh al-Zandani who later died of his injuries. Seven other loyalists – including a high-ranking intelligence official – were killed in the attack.

Yemen is mired in a grinding conflict between the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels and a government backed up by a Saudi-led coalition. The Saudi-led coalition launched its first raids on rebel strongholds in March 2015 in a bid to bolster President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who now lives in Riyadh. Since then the conflict has killed some 10,000 people, according to the World Health Organization, although human rights groups say the toll could be five times higher. The unrest has also pushed the country to the brink of famine.

LAHJ, Yemen: Africa migrants receive treatment at the Ibn Khaldoon Hospital in the southern city of Lahj. —AFP

8 migrants dead

In another development, at least eight Africa migrants have died in makeshift camps in war-hit Yemen, the UN’s migration agency said yesterday, warning thousands were living under “inhumane conditions”. The International Organization for Migration said they had died of complications related to acute watery diarrhea at the Ibn Khaldoon Hospital in Lahj, a southern district controlled by the Yemeni government in its war with northern rebels.
The IOM said it learned of the deaths on Wednesday. Most were Ethiopian. “I am deeply saddened by the deaths of these eight migrants, who were among the thousands of migrants being held in deplorable conditions across Yemen,” said Mohammed Abdiker, the IOM’s director of operations and emergencies. “We have decried this policy to the authorities, urging them to take a humane approach to irregular migration.”

Abdiker said the IOM had evidence guards had fired on migrants at a sports stadium in Aden, bastion of the embattled Yemeni government, wounding two and leaving a teenage boy “likely paralyzed for life”. “IOM stands ready to support Yemen and other regional partners to identify sustainable responses to irregular migration, which do not involve the shortsighted abuse of vulnerable migrants and fully respects international law,” he said. “I am greatly concerned that this dire situation will further deteriorate.”

Yemen has descended into chaos in the past four years of conflict, with both the Iran-linked Huthi rebels and a rival pro-government military alliance led by Saudi Arabia accused of acts that could amount to war crimes. But the country remains on an established route for migrants from the Horn of Africa, who typically first travel by land through Djibouti before eventually undergoing perilous boat journeys across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen.

Many say they aim to travel by land to oil-rich Saudi Arabia to find work. But many do not even survive the journey, dying at sea or at the hands of panicked smugglers. The IOM said an estimated 5,000 African migrants, mostly Ethiopian and some from Somalia, were currently being held in makeshift camps in the government strongholds of Lahj, Abyan and Aden. More than 1,400 people were “detained” in the Lahj camp alone, it said.

Nearly 150,000 migrants arrived in Yemen last year, according to the UN. In January the UN announced plans to airlift some 3,000 Ethiopian migrants to their capital Addis Ababa from Yemen’s Sanaa. Hundreds have already returned. Voluntary flight returns were resumed last year after being suspended in 2015, when the Yemen war took a turn for the worse with the intervention of the regional military force led by Saudi Arabia. Since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in the Yemen war, nearly 10,000 people have been killed, according to the World Health Organization, although other groups say the toll is significantly higher.- Agencies