A tragedy at the Gulf of Aden - Unscrupulous traffickers commit crimes against immigrants from Ethiopia

International Migrants Day (December 18)

On occasion of the International Migrants Day (December 18), the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) demands consistent measures against human traffickers at the Gulf of Aden who arbitrarily abduct, torture and murder migrants from Ethiopia. "There is no other place in the world where migrants are treated as bad as the Gulf of Aden region. Their tragic fate, which lies in the shadow of the Lampedusa boat people in the Mediterranean Sea, is hardly noticed by the public," said the STP’s expert on questions regarding Africa, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen on Monday. Every year, tens of thousands of migrants and refugees die during the dangerous attempt to reach the coast of Yemen – while many of those who arrive there become victims of human traffickers. They get kidnapped and are only set free again if they pay the ransom money and others become victims of sexual assaults.

"It is outrageous and hard to comprehend how unscrupulous traffickers treat the immigrants even during the journey," said Delius. "Several survivors had independently reported that all the ‘passengers’ of the small boats had been tied up, because more people can be transported this way. Also, there is no resistance when parts of the "load" have to be thrown overboard in a storm or simply to make the overloaded boats lighter. "Most refugee boats start in Djibouti, a neighboring country to Ethiopia and a French ally. Most of the migrants try to reach Saudi Arabia where they hope to find work.

According to Delius’ description of the ordeal the migrants have to suffer, they face new threats when they arrive in Yemen: While waiting for an opportunity to travel onwards to Saudi Arabia, many become victims of kidnappings, sexual assaults and massive discrimination. Especially women are at risk, but also men are treated as unprotected game. Traffickers and criminal gangs kidnap migrants, torture them and only set them free when their relatives pay ransom money. The authorities in Yemen do not fight these traffickers effectively. Refugee organizations such as the Danish Refugee Council gathered detailed documentation about the terrible fate of many migrants in Yemen. Even the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has repeatedly demanded better protection for the new arrivals from Ethiopia.

From January to October 2012 alone, 90.000 migrants and refugees from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia arrived in Yemen. According to the STP, at least twice as many choose the dangerous route across the sea – and about half of them don’t make it to the safe shore. Approximately two-thirds of the migrants who survive the journey to Yemen are people from Ethiopia who hope to find work in Saudi Arabia. Many are well-educated university graduates who couldn’t find a job in their home country, despite the double-digit economic growth. Others are needy farmers who belong to the ethnic group of the Oromo, who often become victims of land theft and impoverishment.