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25 Jun 2024

Raseef22, Beirut, Lebanon

Somalia: African immigrants headed to Saudi Arabia encounter rape and forced transit in Yemen

On June 10th, it was reported that 49 African migrants, including 31 women and 6 children, died, and 140 others went missing after a smuggling boat capsized off the coast of Shabwah Governorate in eastern Yemen. The boat, which departed from Somalia, was carrying 115 Somali migrants and 145 Ethiopians, including 90 women, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Many African migrants dream of reaching Saudi Arabia but resort to illegal migration, beginning with a perilous sea journey from the Horn of Africa to Yemen. Those who survive must gather money demanded by smugglers before proceeding to Saudi Arabia. They often remain in Yemen, taking on arduous or poorly paid jobs to earn the required funds.

This investigation by Raseef22 presents firsthand accounts of thousands of African migrants driven by economic hardship, who cross Yemen hoping to enter Saudi Arabia. They endure a hazardous sea journey, only to face inhumane exploitation by some Yemeni employers. Desperate, they accept any work and wage, clinging to the hope of crossing the border into Saudi Arabia. Others, fleeing dire conditions in their home countries, settle in Yemen, taking on any work to provide for their families without attempting the risky journey to Saudi Arabia.

African migrants arriving in Yemen are primarily concentrated in governorates close to the Saudi border, facilitating their entry into Saudi Arabia via smuggling networks. Significant numbers of African migrants are found in Saada Governorate (north), Al-Bayda Governorate (central Yemen), Dhale, Hajjah, Lahij, Abyan, and Aden (south). Shabwah Governorate (east) serves as the primary entry point for Africans into these Yemeni regions.

The types of work African migrants engage in vary by region, but they commonly receive meager compensation. In Aden, most work for cleaning companies, hospitals, and large commercial markets, while a few work in fishing, restaurants, or car washes. In governorates like Al-Bayda, Dhale, Hajjah, and Saada, most Africans work on qat farms.