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IOM: Migrants in Yemen abused as ‘transmitters of disease’

June 3, 2020 at 9:36 am

Yemeni members of a medical team spray disinfectants on streets as precautionary measures against the spread of the coronavirus on 25 March, 2020 un Sana’a, Yemen [Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images]

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the already dire situation in Yemen for vulnerable communities like internally displaced people and migrants, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has warned.

“The situation in Yemen is at breaking point,” said Antonio Vitorino, IOM Director-General.

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that more than half of Yemen’s population will contract COVID-19.

Despite the threat of coronavirus and the ongoing conflict, migrants from the Horn of Africa transit through Yemen in search of opportunities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In 2019, over 138,000 migrants crossed the Gulf of Aden, making it the busiest maritime migration route in the world, the IOM said in a statement.

READ: Donors promise Yemen $1.35 billion, falling short of UN target to save aid operations

“Migrants in Yemen are vulnerable during every phase of their journey. In addition to the risks associated with the armed conflict, smuggling and trafficking networks prey on irregular migrants, subjecting them to abuse and exploitation. Unaccompanied children and women are among the most vulnerable of the migrant population, often experiencing abduction, coercion and physical abuse.”

This pandemic should not be an excuse to exploit and abuse migrants. International support is needed to advocate for the release of migrants being held in detention and for protection to be afforded to all migrants

said Vitorino.

As fears of the virus increase, migrants are being stigmatized as “transmitters of disease”, leading to retaliation, including physical and verbal harassment, denial of access to health services, movement restrictions, and forced movements to frontline conflict and desert areas.

“Accusing vulnerable communities of contributing to the spread of COVID-19 is senseless and should stop,” he continued.

“COVID-19 respects no borders—it can affect anyone, regardless of political affiliation, location, tribe, or immigration status. Yemen has a longstanding charitable acceptance of, and support to, vulnerable communities, including migrants and displaced people, must continue.”

READ: EU donates $60m to help Yemen curb coronavirus spread