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Nowhere to run: The Yemenis stranded in their own country

 

Yemenis battered by war and the economic fallout find that neighbouring countries will only admit them if they have enough money

TAIZ, Yemen - When conflict and economic disaster befall a country, populations often flee, either to save themselves or in search of a better existence.

Millions of Syrians, for example, have arrived in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere since war broke out in 2011.

Not so in Yemen. Neighbours including Saudi Arabia, Oman and other countries refuse to accept the vast majority of displaced Yemenis through official channels, amid fears that it would result in a massive influx.


It has left thousands of Yemenis stranded - or else turning to people smugglers.

Wadei al-Adimi, 28, an unemployed graduate from Taiz University, decided his best option was to go and live with his brother, who has been resident in Saudi Arabia for seven years.

But it’s difficult to get a worker visa and impossible to enter the kingdom - which has led the coalition attack on Yemen's Houthi-controlled areas since 2015 - as a displaced person.

So Adimi turned to the smugglers after his brother sent him $2,000 to cover the fees and  associated costs for the journey.

"I travelled to Shabwa province,” says Adimi, “and there a friend recommended a smuggler who takes people from Shabwa to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. I travelled with 11 others in the same car."

Adimi said that the smuggler, who is legally allowed to enter Saudi himself, took them along rough mountainous roads, then stopped and asked the passengers to walk five kilometers alone across terrain inaccesible for vehicles. He then met them on the other side of the border, out of sight of checkpoints.

Some customers of the smugglers are less fortunate: they might get lost in the mountains or be discovered by Saudi patrols, who fire upon them if they try to escape.


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