Posted on March 19, 2020

Yemenis Fear Coronavirus Could Sneak in as Illegal Migrants Enter via Border Crossings

Xinhua, March 18, 2020

Despite the precautionary measures declared by the Saudi-backed government, many Yemenis believe coronavirus could sneak into Yemen as illegal migrants enter the country through border crossings.

Yemen’s government declared a number of precautionary measures in an attempt to curb the outbreak of the coronavirus in the war-ravaged Arab country.

The measures included suspension of international flights to and from the airports under its control, the closure of all the government-controlled border crossings, as well as shutting down all the educational institutions.

Despite these measures, Yemenis said that thousands of African immigrants and asylum-seekers continue flocking into the country via the illegal border crossings, as the authority over Yemen’s land, air, and sea crossings is fractured between the Saudi-backed government and the Iranian-backed Houthis without any coordination, making it difficult for the rival governments to contain coronavirus.

Marwan Naji, an Aden-based citizen, told Xinhua “We are in danger of being affected by coronavirus because there’s no supervision or control from the authorities over many of the country’s illegal border crossings.”

Despite not having any detected cases of coronavirus in Yemen’s provinces, Marwan said that the coronavirus could sneak into his country through border crossings.

“Large flocks of African immigrants enter the Yemeni regions every day illegally and don’t receive any medical tests for the coronavirus,” he added.

In the southern port city of Aden, Salah Antary, a government employee, told Xinhua that the African migrants don’t stick to the rules or medical instructions as they enter the Yemeni territories via the illegal borders.

“Some gatherings of the illegal African migrants immediately head to the densely populated neighborhoods in Aden and sleep nearby the residential buildings after their arrival,” said Salah.

An official of Aden’s local government told Xinhua anonymously that “controlling the illegal immigration dilemma is not possible at the recent time.”

He confirmed that “most of the migrants don’t have refugee camps and live on the city’s main streets over concerns of the epidemic.”

On Monday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) estimated that 9,624 African migrants primarily Ethiopians and Somalis entered Yemen during February 2020.

The IOM said that the highest arrivals were observed in the southeastern Shabwa province with 5,560 migrants entering via the Al-Khabyah monitoring point.

Since mid-April last year, authorities in the provinces of Aden, Abyan, and Lahj have detained irregular migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, in makeshift detention sites.

At the peak, around 5,000 people were held in two sports stadiums and one military camp without basic living services.

Yemen has been plagued in a civil war between the government forces and Houthi rebels since late 2014, which has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, in the impoverished Arab country.

The conflict has left many hospitals closed or ill-equipped and the country is struggling to establish coronavirus testing sites.