May 18, 2016

Ogaden: Refugees Suffer from Worsening Situation in Yemen

Photo Courtesy of: Mareeg 2015

Ogadeni refugees in Yemen decry the disregard for their suffering in the war-torn country’s refugee camps. Around 300 to 500 Ogadenis sought refuge in Yemen, only to suffer even more under the evils of war and at the hands of some of the local UNHRC staff. Supposed to alleviate and not aggravate the plight of Ogadenis in Yemen, some of the aid workers instead often choose to ignore the refugees’ demands.


Below is an article published by Mareeg: 

The Ogadeni refugees living in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a and Al-Kharaz camp, about 120 kilometers of the Southern town of Aden are suffering and the ongoing conflict has aggravated the plight of at least 500 families, who were already facing acute food shortage and could not return to their homeland for fear of detention, torture and possibly persecution.

On Monday, more than a dozen women from the Ogaden region of Ethiopia gathered in front of UNHCR’s Bureau for Refugee Affairs (BRA) to raise their concerns with the UNHCR staff at the Algerian Street in Sana’a. The UNHCR’s door is closed and nobody answers most of the cases, except few cases, like mandate renewals or receiving new clients, a process that takes up to two years.

The Ogadeni community in Sana’a numbers approximately 300- 500, most of whom registered with the UNHCR. Around 100 families from Ogaden live in Al-Kharaz Refugee [Camp] in the South of Yemen, registered with the UN as refugees from Somalia.

Most of the refugees are women who have to bring up their families single-handedly: their husbands are either in Ethiopian jails or have been killed by government forces. They work as maidservants and are paid 150 dollars per month.

Scores of Ogaden asylum-holders took a risk in returning – and their fear was justified: Upon their return to Ogaden region, they were detained, tortured and charged with ‘ONLF-sympathization’ for carrying UNHCR documents with them. They are serving four years term in the notorious prison known as ‘Jail Ogaden’, in the regional capital of Jigjiga, about 80 kilometers east of the city of Harar, in which torture and executions are routine.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sana’a, Yemen has already ignored their plight and they receive less attention from the international community and UNHCR’s donors.

Moreover, the local UNHCR’s cruel treatment of the African refugees and asylum seekers is horrible and shameful. The refugees are treated as criminals and the security guards behave as prison guards – guards who receive orders from UNHCR’s local staff.  They are often half-caste Ethiopian-Yemenis and Somali Yemenis, who often beat the women with their batons, and intimidate and harass young African men in front of their loved ones.

A true account of tragedy, suffering, and grave injustice: “My mother and my brother were executed in front of my eyes and I escaped when their bodies were displayed on the scene. I was terrified and escaped from Ogaden to Yemen via of Djibouti,” said Raha, who asked that her full name not be used for fear of reprisal. “My father is detained and tortured day and night because of me.” The jailers of Raha’s father want him to make his daughter to return [to Ogaden] to keep the story hidden from the rest of the world, so that they can either kill her or put her in custody.

Ms. Raho shared her story with UNHCR’s Protection Unit, run by local UNHCR staff, Mohamed Omar and Muna, who are half-caste Ethiopian-Yemenis. She received a rather unpleasant response from them.

Raha suffered a minor injury during an air strike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in the Faj Attan area of the capital and their house was rocked by a huge explosion in April last year. She is only one of many examples of refugees suffering under Johannes Van Der Klaauw’s UNHCR.

Most refugees felt helpless after their former leader Yusuf Goggaar and his wife were allegedly executed by poison. Another Somali Christian father likely died of poisoning. He left behind a son and his bible. The gangsters that are eliminating the voice of the voiceless refugees remain unknown to the wider Yemeni community and the rest of the World.

According to the refugees, there is no independent body overseeing what UNHCR Yemen does on the ground. And no private human rights organizations that could put pressure on the UN to do the right things.