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UNHCR remains concerned by high numbers of refugees and migrants arriving in Yemen

 Briefing Notes, 6 August 2013

 This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 6 August 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. 

 In Yemen, UNHCR has so far recorded the arrival of more than 46,000 refugees and migrants during the first six months of 2013, and we remain concerned about the increasingly high numbers of people making the dangerous trip by boat from the Horn of Africa

 The number of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Yemen has been rising for the past six years. Last year, a record 107,500 people made the journey. And while numbers are lower so far in 2013 46,417 from January through June, compared to 56,146 for the same period in 2012 this year represents another year with a high number of arrivals. Since 2006, close to half a million (some 487,000) people have arrived in Yemen through mixed-migration movements.

UNHCR staff and our partners, such as the Yemeni Red Crescent and the Danish Refugee Council, work daily to record new arrivals and offer them support. That help takes many forms, including food and water, first aid and transportation to transit and reception centres hot meals, welcome packages including blankets and clothing, accommodation and counselling.

 We have witnessed a significant change in the refugee and migrant population arriving in Yemen over the past two years, with more Ethiopians making the crossing and citing the difficult situation at home. Previously, Somali refugees made up between one-third and one-quarter of total arrivals. Of the people who arrived in Yemen in the first half of 2013, 38,827 (84%) are Ethiopian, 7,559 (16%) are Somali, and there are also 17 Eritreans, 12 Djiboutians and two Sudanese.

Most of the new arrivals reached Yemen in February-March and via the Red Sea. Of the 46,417 total, 7,518 people arrived in January, 10,145 in February, 11,806 in March, 6,407 in April, 6,261 in May and 4,280 in June. Of the total, 34,875 arrived via the Red Sea and mainly in Lahij Governorate. The other 11,542 arrived via the Arabian Sea -mainly in Hadramout Governorate.

Refugees and migrants are vulnerable to exploitation, violence and sexual abuse at all stages of their journeys. Boats crossing the Arabian Sea or Red Sea to Yemen are often overcrowded. Smugglers may force passengers into the water to avoid detection. Smugglers and traffickers often wait on the coast to receive the new arrivals.

Yemeni authorities continue to recognize Somali arrivals as refugees automatically. UNHCR determines the refugee status of Ethiopians and other nationals. Though few Ethiopians seek asylum partly because most want to travel to beyond Yemen or they don't know how the asylum process works. As a result, most Ethiopians are left extremely vulnerable.

There are positive developments. The number of dead or missing refugees and migrants has dropped significantly to five people so far this year from 43 in all of 2012. And in Yemen, a traditional transit hub for migrants and a country hosting more than 242,000 refugees, migration-monitoring is relatively well managed. Yemeni authorities have also enjoyed some success in locating smugglers' and traffickers' bases and cracking down on their operations.

 While UNHCR remains concerned by the continued high numbers of asylum seekers and migrants arriving in Yemen from the Horn of Africa, we are also engaged with the Yemeni Government and national and international partners. Together we are working to enhance services offered to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants as well as find sustainable solutions.

For more information, please contact:

 ·         In Sana'a: Zaid al-Alaya'a at +967 7 1222 5027

 ·         In Geneva: Daniel MacIsaac at +41 79 200 76 17



 Lellisee Wodaajoo, an Oromo Journalist, finally free

 August 12, 2013.  SOURCE: AYYAANTUU.COM

 Do you remember an Oromo female journalist arrested only for being only Oromo in 2008? Yes, Lelise Wodajo is our heroine. She is finally free and rejoined her family in Australia.

 The case of Mrs. Lelise Wodajo, a mother of three dependent children and wife of former ETV journalist Mr. Dhabasa Wakjira was arrested after her husband fled the country to escape further persecutions after three years in prison without trial. She was sentenced for 10 years without parole.

 While we are rejoicing Lelise’s freedom, let us remember also thousands and thousands of Oromo languishing in every Tigre prisons around the Empire for similar reason.

  Below is background information about Lelise Wodajo:

  CPJ: Two Ethiopian state TV journalists under arrest 

   Amnesty International Appeals for Detained/Tortured Oromo Prisoners 

  Unforgettable happy moment, Melbourne, Australia, August 2013


Ethiopians ‘seek asylum en masse in South Korea’ 

 Two-thirds of a group of young professional Ethiopians who went for training in South Korea have stayed to seek asylum, it's reported. 

  Forty chose to apply for political asylum on the grounds of "gross human rights violations", while just 19 returned home, according to London-based Ethiomedia website. The pro-opposition news outlet quotes one of the 40, Sisay Woldegabriel, as complaining of Muslims being "brutalized by police and government forces". The group is apparently staying at Henan Refugee Camp and Ethiomedia suggests they've been welcomed as a result of Ethiopia's support for Seoul - in the form of thousands of troops - during the Korean War. Three years ago, a 38-year-old Ethiopian became the first refugee to be awarded South Korean citizenship.   While Ethiopia is regarded as one of Africa's most stable countries, tensions between the Orthodox Christian majority and Muslims - who make up a third of its population - have grown in recent years. The government has cracked down on what it sees as Islamic extremists, leading to protests. Thousands demonstrated last week after the arrest of 28 people on terror charges, leading to reports of police beatings and widespread arrests.



Ethiopian becomes first refugee-citizen in South Korea


South Korea has awarded citizenship to an Ethiopian refugee  the first such move in the country's history, says the UN's refugee agency. 


The UN's Melissa Fleming called it a "highly significant milestone" in East and South East Asia - where few nations have signed the UN refugee convention.


She urged other Asian countries to follow South Korea's lead.


The 38-year-old Ethiopian fled persecution in his home country in 2001 and was given citizenship last week.


Ms Fleming said South Korea had signed the refugee convention in 1994, and had so far accepted 175 claims of refugee status and given humanitarian assistance.


The country also houses thousands of refugees from North Korea, but the UN says North Koreans have a different status and are automatically considered to be South Korean citizens.




Selassie's Korean army

    • Ethiopia sends three 1,200-strong battalions


    • Soldiers drawn from emperor's imperial bodyguard


    • First Kagnew battalion arrives in May 1951


    • Assigned to US 7th Infantry Division


    • Ethiopians fight in a number of engagements including Battle of Pork Chop Hill


    • Ethiopian casualties: 121 killed, 536 wounded


 "They tried to take my radio operator prisoner, but I killed the Chinese soldier and saved that man. And one time they came to finish us when we were all wounded, and I was left with one hand grenade and I killed them. It was very hard."

 The fighting continued on and off through the night. Cut off, his men wounded, Mamo feared they could not hold out much longer.

"I was wounded several times, I was tired, exhausted and I fell unconscious twice. The most important thing was to find a radio to contact the American artillery. But my three radios were destroyed.

 “Start Quote

It's like a man who is living with his family, and all the family is dead and he returns to an empty house”

End Quote Mamo Habtewold

"I gave one soldier my pistol to cover me while I went looking for a radio. I fainted again, and I was afraid I might be captured, I wanted to kill myself. But when I ordered the soldier to give me my pistol back, he refused, and the other soldiers said 'Don't give it to him!'"

So Mamo decided to fight on, after all.

"I just looked for a weapon from one of the dead men, and when the Chinese attacked I would shoot, and when it was quiet, I would look for a radio," he says.

In the end he did find a radio. He called in American artillery which halted the Chinese attacks. Reinforcements got through and under the cover of smoke he and his wounded soldiers were withdrawn. Back at base, Mamo was the only one of his patrol left standing.

"They all went to hospital. I was the only one who went back to the bunker. It's like a man who is living with his family, and all the family is dead and he returns to an empty house - that is how I felt. I was so sorry. I was very depressed."

Cold War conflict


    • North Korean forces invade the south - 25 June 1950


    • UN resolution condemns invasion - 26 June 1950


    • Ethiopia is among 16 countries to send troops


  • Armistice ends fighting - 27 July 1953

For his actions, he was awarded Ethiopia's highest military honour. The Americans also gave him a Silver Star for gallantry in action.

More than 3,000 Ethiopians fought in the Korean War, more than 120 were killed, more than 500 were wounded. The survivors returned to Addis Ababa as heroes.

"It was really a big day, especially when we came back from Korea, we brought back our dead soldiers. In Addis Ababa it was so crowded. Half of the crowd were weeping, half were celebrating," Mamo says.

After the war, Mamo was promoted to captain. He was forced to leave the army in 1960 in the aftermath of an attempted to coup by members of the Imperial Bodyguard. He went on to have a career as a businessman and administrator.

This year the South Korean government announced it would give pensions to the surviving Ethiopian veterans of the Korean War. Mamo still hopes to return to South Korea one last time and see the place where he became an Ethiopian war hero.


Alex Last's interview with Capt Mamo was broadcast on the BBC World Service's Witness programme. You can download a podcast of the programme or browse the archive.