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Yemen: ‘Heart-breaking’ Mass Drowning a Symptom of Devastating Conflict and Humanitarian Crisis

WASHINGTON - Responding to reports that at least 30 Somali and Ethiopian refugees and migrants drowned after leaving the coast of south-western Yemen to flee back to Africa, Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research for the Middle East at Amnesty International, said:

“This heart-breaking tragedy underscores, yet again, just how devastating Yemen’s conflict continues to be for civilians. Amid ongoing hostilities and crushing restrictions imposed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, many people who came to Yemen to flee conflict and repression elsewhere are now being forced yet again to flee in search of safety. Some are dying in the process.

“During almost three years of Yemen’s conflict, all parties have flagrantly flouted international law. Civilian lives have been devastated by indiscriminate bombing and shelling, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and a spiraling humanitarian crisis that has made more than 22 million people reliant on aid to survive.”

The United States continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia despite evidence that these weapons have been used by the Saudi-led coalition to kill civilians in the conflict. Yemen is also one of the countries singled out by President Trump’s Muslim Ban, preventing those who wish to leave the country from coming to the United States.

“The international community must halt arms transfers that could be used in the conflict, cooperate to ensure accountability for war crimes and other serious violations, and pressure the Saudi Arabia-led coalition to fully lift the restrictions on aid and commercial imports of essential goods which are exacerbating one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises,” said Maalouf.


According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Yemen, at least 152 Somali and Ethiopian refugees and migrants left the Yemeni port of Aden on an overcrowded boat with people smugglers on January 23. The boat never made it to its destination in Djibouti after it capsized amid reports of guns being fired on board. 

UN agencies and the Yemeni coast guard are working to establish more information about the incident.

In a report published earlier this month, UNHCR stated that there are 2,014,026 internally displaced persons in Yemen, while an estimated 1,457 families have been forced to flee since December due to the latest escalation in western Yemen. There are currently more than 280,000 refugees and asylum seekers from other countries in Yemen.

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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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