ADDIS ABABA – Tens of thousands of Ethiopian migrants stranded in war-torn Yemen are in fear for their lives as COVID-19 spreads throughout the country and life-saving aid is in short supply, according to the International Organization for Migration said.
More than 1,460 cases of coronavirus, including 418 deaths are reported in Yemen, but aid agencies believe the true number is much higher, according to reports.
As this deadly disease spreads widely throughout local communities, the U.N. migration agency warns thousands of Ethiopian migrants are at greater risk.
In a statement, IOM spokesman Paul Dillon said, “for nearly six years, Yemen has been an extremely unsafe place to be a migrant”.
“COVID-19 has made this situation worse; migrants are scapegoated as carriers of the virus and as a result, suffer exclusion and violence,” Dillon said. “In addition to the forced removals, fears about COVID-19 have led to migrants in Yemen experiencing verbal and physical harassment, increased detention and movement restrictions.”
Thousands of Ethiopians cross to Yemen each year in search of economic opportunities but Covid-restrictions have made it worse this year.
Last year, 138,000 migrants arrived in Yemen from the Horn of Africa, predominantly from Ethiopia, hoping to eventually make it to Saudi Arabia.
This year, however, the number of migrant arrivals has decreased by 90% in recent months because of COVID-19 related restrictions, according to IOM.