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HORN OF AFRICA-YEMEN: IOM to create database for African migrants


Photo: UNHCR/K.McKinsey
Small fishing boats carry up to 125 people when used to smuggle migrants from the Somali coast across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen
SANAA, 25 October 2007 (IRIN) - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) office in Sanaa is to create and manage a database that will register migrants and asylum seekers from Africa who have arrived in Yemen by sea after crossing the Gulf of Aden, according to Stefano Tamagnini, head of office.

Tamagnini, who said his office was still seeking funding for the project, told IRIN the database would be crucial since it will contain all information about African migrants coming to Yemen. However, he said his office would not be in a position to manage the database for new arrivals without donor support.

“It is important to have a database. It’s going to be about everybody arriving in the south [of Yemen]. We are focusing on the south as most of the migrants arrive there,” he said.

According to IOM, the database will be shared with UN agencies, international NGOs and local authorities dealing with migrants and asylum seekers. The aim is to enable IOM and its partners to better coordinate humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum seekers and also to adopt prevention strategies in countries of origin in the Horn of Africa as well as along well-established migration routes.

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Many migrants and asylum seekers from the Horn, particularly from Somalia and Ethiopia, risk their lives on small, overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels. Sometimes they are thrown into the sea by traffickers who wish to avoid detection as they near the Yemeni coast, said IOM. In interviews last year, it found very few migrants were aware of the risks involved.

IOM is also looking for funding to work with UN partners and local authorities in Somalia to prevent thousands of migrants and would-be asylum seekers from risking their lives to reach Yemen by boat.

According to UNHCR, about 26,000 migrants and asylum seekers entered Yemen in 2006. So far this year, 18,757 people crossed the Gulf of Aden by boat, with an estimated 4,040 having died at sea while 393 remain missing and are presumed dead.

Tamagnini added that the database would be tailored according to the profiling forms the IOM office is going to develop. “The [format for the] forms will be discussed by our partners, UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) and government authorities,” he said.

The database will have an update on new arrivals from Africa together with all their data, Tamagnini said. “It will enable us to know who is who and whether they are refugees, asylum seekers or economic migrants.”

According to him, US$1 million is needed for funding the database. The funds will also enable IOM to open a sub-office in the port city of Aden, southern Yemen. Tamagnini said that initially the programme will last for between nine months to one year. “Every year we will have to refinance the programme. Everything will depend on the first year because only from then will we will know the exact situation of African migrants,” he said.


Photo: Muhammad al-Jabri/IRIN

"It is important to have a database. It’s going to be about everybody arriving in the south [of Yemen]. We are focusing on the south as most of the migrants arrive there."

Stefano Tamagnini, the International Organization for Migration's head of office
Government support

The IOM also needs Yemeni government’s support, added Tamagnini. “The government is responsible for everything concerning refugee issues. We need to have the government’s cooperation in creating the database in the south,” he said.

When the database is created, the IOM office will be able to help those African refugees and asylum seekers who wish to return home voluntarily. It will also give the option of voluntary return to those Africans who are not eligible for asylum. The office will provide means of transportation (either by sea or air) for the migrants’ return as well as pre-departure counselling, medical screening and additional assistance upon arrival.

His office has found that after a time many African migrants ask to return home. “We have done research on the situation. A lot of information comes from the UNHCR as they know what’s going on. But we are going to start a new research by an international expert before the end of this month.”

As the IOM does not have the mandate to protect refugees, it will work with the UNHCR when registering the African migrants arriving in Yemen. “UNHCR are in charge of protecting refugees and we are in charge of registering them. We are the ones who arrange their transportation for returning them to their home countries,” he said.

maj/ar/mw


Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

[ENDS]

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.