May 4, 2012
Yemeni police freed 89 illegal African migrants who were held captive by armed men to force their relatives in Saudi Arabia to send ransom money, the Yemeni interior ministry said Friday.
The police raided several houses in the northern district of Haradh in Hajja province near the border with Saudi Arabia, captured five kidnappers and freed 89 illegal migrants, including 76 Somalis, seven Nigerians and six Sudanese, who were held captive for weeks, the ministry said in a statement.
"Investigations with the African illegal migrants showed that the kidnappers tortured them to force them to contact their families who are in Saudi Arabia to send ransom money," it said.
"The kidnappers were under investigation, while the Africans were temporarily kept at Haradh police station. The Somalis will be transferred to a UN refugee center and the others will be repatriated," the statement added.
The migrants who came to Yemen through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden on smugglers' boats arrived at Haradh hoping to reach the oil-rich Arab Gulf countries. But Saudi Arabia has recently tightened its borders with Yemen to prevent African migrants from reaching its lands.
Unable to continue their journey into the Gulf countries due to tightened border controls by the Saudi authorities or to return home without any resources, migrants from the Horn of Africa frequently find themselves stranded in Haradh without adequate food, shelter and water.