HRW slams inaction on migrants in Yemen, S. Arabia

HRW slams inaction on migrants in Yemen, S. Arabia
Mon May 26, 2014 10:15:31

Human Rights Watch has released a new report that documents the desperate conditions of people who fled poverty and armed conflict in Africa, only to be abused at the hands of human traffickers who have the backing and active support of some state security officers in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

The 82-page report, titled "Yemen's Torture Camps: Abuse of Migrants by Human Traffickers in a Climate of Impunity", urged Yemeni and Saudi border officials to do more to prosecute smugglers and to protect migrants from abuse, rape and extortion at the hands of traffickers, ABC News reported on Saturday.

Tens of thousands of Africans make the perilous boat journey from the Horn of Africa across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, the Arab world's most impoverished nation. From there, the African men, women and children cross illegally into Saudi Arabia in search of work and better living conditions.

The report found that some border guards and security forces in Yemen and Saudi Arabia take bribes to either turn a blind eye, and in other cases to actively play a role in the trafficking.

According to traffickers and migrants interviewed by Human Rights Watch, security officials in Yemen and Saudi Arabia have caught migrants traveling on their own and sold them to traffickers.

The smuggling of migrants is "a multi-million dollar trafficking and extortion racket", the report said. In the northern Yemeni border town of Haradh, 80 percent of the economy subsists off of the illegal trade, said a Yemeni official in the report.

The report found that on the Yemeni side, "there appears to be total impunity for security forces involved in trafficking." Additionally, smugglers control dozens of isolated camps that "are well-known to the Yemeni government", where they hold thousands of migrants in appalling conditions.

From March to May of last year, Yemeni security forces raided some of those camps, but no traffickers or security officials have yet been sentenced, according to Human Rights Watch.

Migrants said they were tortured, hung by their thumbs for hours, burnt and beaten in the camps. Women and boys told the rights group they were raped by the smugglers until a family member, either in their home country or already in Saudi Arabia, wired the traffickers more money.

In just the past year alone, the Saudi government has deported at least 170,000 Ethiopians, most of whom never acquired visas. The United Nations refugee agency said earlier this year that Saudi Arabia also repatriated more than 22,000 Somalis in recent months.


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