Yemen: The deadly migration route that the world is ignoring

Jamal and Ahmed are two Ethiopian migrants traveling across the border into Djibouti, bound for Yemen.

Story highlights

  • Many migrants in Yemen are abused and tortured, writes Mohammed Abdiker
  • He says they face similar abuse to migrants traveling through Libya

Mohammed Abdiker is director of operations and emergencies for the UN Migration Agency. The views expressed in this commentary are solely his.

(CNN)Last year, nearly 100,000 migrants entered Yemen, a country gripped by conflict and the world's worst humanitarian crisis. That's 2,000 migrants entering a warzone per week; nearly 300 a day.

The majority start out from Ethiopia, and some from Somalia, and usually head to the Gulf in search of work, with Saudi Arabia being the top destination. People embarking on this route are typically under 25, but many are children.
    Mohammed Abdiker, UN Migration Agency.
    The stories we hear from them are the same; they know someone who has gone before and "made it." Someone who has sent enough money home to build their parents a house, put their brother through school or regenerate their family farm affected by years of drought. Migrants often cite these examples as proof that once they reach their destination they will be able to pull themselves and their loved ones out of poverty.
      It is this mix of desperation and naivety that smugglers unscrupulously exploit.

      Abuse, torture and kidnapping

      It is almost impossible to travel this route (Ethiopia-Djibouti-Yemen-the Gulf) without enlisting a smuggler at some point and if a migrant tries to go it alone at all, they are putting themselves at greater risk because it's "bad for business" for the vast smuggling networks. Many migrants, including young people, suffer appalling treatment from cruel smugglers and other criminals, including physical and sexual abuse, torture, kidnapping for ransom (from families who can't afford to pay), arbitrary detention for long periods of time, forced labor, trafficking and even death.
      In Yemen, migrants also often get caught up in the conflict, sustaining injuries or even dying from shelling, and some are taken to detention centers.
      No migrant should be held in detention, especially children, and IOM, the UN Migration Agency, advocates for their closure and offers its support to the authorities to improve conditions. In Yemen, we currently only have access to two detention centers out of an unknown total.