Sunday, March 20, 2011

Somali refugees flee unrest and “mercenary attacks” in Yemen

BOSASSO- Mar 20, 2011- At least 60 Somali refugees fleeing the unrest in Yemen arrived back in their country on Saturday, reaching the port town of Bosasso in the north.

Upon arrival, the refugees told tails of horror stories back in Yemen. Abukar Abdulaziz Osman said the Yemenis accused the Somalis of being mercenaries fighting on behalf of Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

We fled from Yemen due to poor living conditions, social inequality, instability, lack of freedom, oppression, current political unrests and many other reasons,” Mr. Osman told local reporters.

There are no immediate reports of Somalis being attacked, detained or abused but the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and representatives of Somalia’s transitional government had confirmed Yemeni opposition groups were spreading the allegations in a bid to ‘mislead the public to escalate confrontations’.

According to UN agencies in Somalia, at least 250 Somali refugees returned back to their native country from Yemen since 26th January when anti-government protests rocked the country.

Yemen is hosting an estimated 181,000 Somali refugees, almost all of them arriving by boats in the last two decades. Every day at least one boat arrives in Yemen from Somalia carrying Somalis fleeing the conflict in their failed state. Now, for the second time, they are fleeing yet another conflict and a possible failed state but only in the opposite direction.

Echoing the Libyan mercenary hysteria, Yemeni opposition groups used television station in Aden to air their mercenary allegations on Saturday. UNHCR in the town said, there are no reports of Ali Saleh hiring any refugees. Terrified for their lives, Somalis are beginning to flee from Yemen with many already too scared to go out.

President Saleh, a key Western ally in the region, declared a state of emergency on Saturday after troops and snipers loyal to his 32-year old rule opened fire from rooftops on demonstrators in Sana’a. Over 50 were killed, several hundred wounded, many more taken into custody and others reported missing.

In Aden anti-government protesters occupied a number of government buildings and streets.

President Saleh faces a host of challenges and enemies including large youth population acerbated by the lack of opportunities in the country, Shia rebels in the north, Al qaeda embedded within lawless tribal regions and powerful independence movement in the south.

In 2009, the Yemeni government arrested 30 Somali refugees in Sa’adah area accusing them of fighting with al-Houthi against government troops. Rights group said the Shia rebels were misleading the refugees by claiming to smuggle them into Saudi Arabia, instead they forced them into battles against Saleh’s troops.

Human Right agencies had urged neighboring states to keep their borders open for humanitarian reliefs and people fleeing the violence. However, there are reports that Saudi Arabia might send forces into north Yemen to pound out any Shia uprise in the region. The Saudi rulers are fearful that instability in the deeply divided country could spill across the border and spread to their own oil-rich largely Shia eastern provinces.

Source: Somali and Press

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