Saltar al contenido principal

‘Even if they Reopened the Airports’ - Barriers to cross-border movement expose Yemenis to repeated internal displacement

Países
Yemen
+ 5
Fuentes
IDMC
Fecha de publicación
Origen
Ver original

Building upon years of instability, the escalation of the war in Yemen in 2015 plunged the country into the worst humanitarian crises of recent times. More than 80 per cent of the population is in need of aid, and millions have been internally displaced. Given the scale of the crisis, comparatively few Yemenis have sought refuge abroad.

This study -- part of the our Invisible Majority thematic series -- seeks to better understand the relationship between internal displacement and cross-border movement. It explores the emigration environment and migration interface within which aspirations and abilities for cross- border movement are defined, and assesses the return outlook of displaced Yemenis.

SUMMARY

Building upon years of instability, the escalation of the war in Yemen in 2015 plunged the country into the worst humanitarian crises of recent times. More than 80 per cent of the population is in need of aid, and millions have been internally displaced. Given the scale of the crisis, comparatively few Yemenis have sought refuge abroad. This study, based on 147 interviews with Yemenis displaced both inside and outside the country, seeks to better understand the relationship between internal displacement and cross-border movement. It explores the emigration environment and migration interface within which aspirations and abilities for crossborder movement are defined, and assesses the return outlook of displaced Yemenis.1 The research arrives at the following key findings.

Emigration environment: Yemen’s social, economic and political context

Yemen is situated at the centre of a mixed migration crossroads. Widespread labour migration to neighbouring Saudi Arabia has been marked by repeated waves of forcible returns. At the same time, Yemen has received large numbers of refugees and migrants from the Horn of Africa, many of whom are seeking to transit onwards to richer oil-producing countries in the region.

Yemen’s latest conflict is a result of longstanding social, economic and political grievances, marked by years of conflict in the north, repression of a southern separatist movement, and decades of stalled development and economic decline. At least 3.65 million people are thought to be living in internal displacement.2 Whole neighbourhoods and even towns have been emptied of their residents as a result of the conflict. Repeated displacement is caused predominantly by shifting frontlines, but also by poverty and evictions. Displaced Yemenis are confronted with high levels of food insecurity, inadequate shelters and limited access to services.

Migration interface: opportunities for and barriers to movement

A number of factors, including neighbouring countries’ strict border controls, difficulties in obtaining necessary documentation, geography and the prohibitively high cost of travel, have restricted the ability of Yemenis to seek refuge abroad. This does not reflect a lack of aspirations, but rather represents a form of forced immobility. In other cases, the internalisation of obstacles to cross-border movement has resulted in a form of acquiescent immobility, whereby Yemenis rationalise their decision to remain in their country of origin by denying their aspirations for migration.

Restrictive migration policies have limited the modes of migration available to those who seek to travel abroad; as a result, much cross-border movement is irregular.

Many of the refugees interviewed in Europe had first flown to countries with no visa restrictions for Yemenis before continuing their dangerous and costly onward journey to Europe via Spain or Morocco. Interviewees in Djibouti made the 14-hour boat journey across the Gulf of Aden, but have been discouraged by the lack of economic opportunities and harsh conditions in displacement.

Return outlook: prospects for durable solutions

While a majority of internally displaced people (IDPs) said they would like to return to their areas of origin, few refugees intend to return to Yemen. Both groups reported that conflict and violence were the main obstacles to return, with refugees having little to no hope of an end to the war in the near or medium term. The likely drop in remittances resulting from deportations from Saudi Arabia threatens to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis, as does any potential scale-down of humanitarian assistance because of concerns about interference with aid in areas under Ansar Allah control.