Sana’a, July, 5 – One child was killed and five adults were injured from the refugee community in Sana’a as Yemeni security tried to disperse the around 700 of angry Eritrean refugees surrounding the UNHCR premises last Tuesday.
This marked the third day in which the protestors were attacked by security men after more than a month long camping outside UNHCR offices. The refugees were demanding assistance for resettling outside Sana’a as they said the city is not safe anymore because of the current political unrest in the city.
According to eyewitness the political security tried to remove the protesters using tear gas shooting in the air the first day on Sunday. The second day the police also tried dispersing them again and became more aggressive causing an injury in the leg of one of the protestors.
The third day five protestors and one child was killed during the security attack against the protestors.
“They [the security] surrounded us using water hoses, black sticks; beating us and even chased us to Baghdad Street after we ran away,” said Solomon Ghebretatios one of the attacked refugees.
According to the UNHCR, the refugees have been camping in front of the office since May 28 to protest against the price hikes and the general insecurity in the country. Throughout this period, UNHCR has made all possible efforts to discuss with protesters the available services to support them, cooperating closely with Yemeni authorities and UNHCR implementing partners. The refugees demanded a safer place; resettlement to a third country.
A colonel who is a member in the National Committee for Refugees Affairs attended some of the negotiations with the refugees and told the Yemen Times that the attack was because the refugees “made chaos and prevented the UNHCR employees from doing their work and from getting out of the office as the refugee’s camp was right in front the front gate of the office.”
According to their representatives, the Eritrean refugees consider themselves “humanitarian refugees” but not “economic refugees” although the difference is known yet they say the UNHCR deals with them as an economic refugees.
"We went to them [UNHCR] because we had no solution for ourselves it’s their job to protect us,” said Ali Hassan the representative of the Eritrean refugees.
According to Hassan the threat on the refugees’ lives is high nowadays as Yemen lives exceptional circumstances, many of the refugees were displaced from their houses in Al-Hassaba when the armed conflict between the tribes and state took place. At the end of May and the beginning of June the situation in Sana’a was about to explode into a civil war, it was hard to find a safe place in the city and many families left to their villages.
However, the threat is not the same any more as the city is quiet, yet the refugees are still uncertain on what is going on and want to be placed anywhere else but Sana’a.
“The danger is still there, no one knows what is going on, whether Saleh is coming back or not and how it will be,” said Hassan.
Hassan explained that the refugees rights state three main rights: Integration with the host society or resettlement in a third country or to return to their country.
As the refugees are not accepted by the Yemeni people and it’s hard to integrate in Yemen and the threat on their lives is still the same back if they considered returning to their country that leaves the last option the only possible solution for them.
“Although refugees often find it hard to believe, resettlement to third countries is only an option for a few vulnerable cases and at the discretion of the resettlement countries themselves – not UNHCR,” read a press release by the UNHCR on this issue.
“Since resettlement is not a realistic option, the protesting refugees were instead advised to choose on the immediately available options- transfer to a camp, a transit shelter on outskirts of Sana’a or financial support to vulnerable families so they can afford to pay rent and put food on table.”