Is Yemen Europe’s next migration crisis?

Té / 18 September 2015

Suddenly everyone knows about Syria as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee across Europe. But further south, another Middle Eastern country is also imploding, arguably at an even faster rate. Will refugees from Yemen now also start to flee to Europe?

The ticket office in Sana’a is crowded with people, bustling to get to the front of the queue. These are Yemen’s upper- and middle- classes, jostling for a spot on the next plane out of the country.

There is only one commercial route open: a once-daily flight to the Jordanian capital Amman. If you book today, the earliest you’ll be able to leave will be in six weeks.

The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, says more than 100,000 people have fled Yemen since a Saudi Arabian-led coalition began bombing the country in March to drive pro-Iranian Houthi rebels from power.

Of these, only around 40,000 are Yemenis. The rest are foreign nationals, mostly from the Horn of Africa, who have returned home.

UNHCR spokesman Andreas Needham told IRIN the actual number may be higher as the refugee agency and the Yemeni authorities only have figures for those people who approach them for assistance.

Within the country, 1.5 million people have had to flee their homes. The head of the international Red Cross said the intensity of the conflict in just five months had left Yemen looking like Syria after five years.

At the ticket office, few people wanted to stay in Jordan once they got there. The United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia were among a jumble of countries mentioned as desirable destinations.

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