Ethiopia Expresses Grief over Migrants Death in Yemen’s Prison Fire

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia has expressed condolences over the death of migrants in a deadly fire accident at a migrant detention center in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, on Sunday.

The total number of migrants who died in the accident remains unconfirmed, as official records have yet to be released.

International Migration Organization (IOM), however, said upto 170 people have been treated for injuries, with many remaining in critical condition. Reports say eight migrants died in the accident.

Nearly 900 migrants, predominantly Ethiopian, were in the overcrowded holding facility at the time of the fire.

“The government of Ethiopia has expressed condolences over the death of many prisoners in a migrant detention center in Yemen due to fire,” said Dina Mufti, spokesperson of Ministry of foreign affairs, in its weekly press briefing on Tuesday.

“Our embassy in Oman is following the matter closely,” added Ambassador Dina, urging people to “avoid illegal traveling and hoodwinked by human traffickers”.

It is not known what caused the blaze at the facility, which was holding hundreds of mostly Ethiopian migrants.

But an air strike by a Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebel Houthi movement reportedly damaged buildings nearby.

“As many migrants are in a critical condition, meeting their health needs must be an urgent priority,” said Carmela Godeau, IOM’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are facing challenges accessing the injured due to an increased security presence in the hospitals,” Godeau said.

Yemen remains a transit country for tens of thousands of migrants traveling between the Horn of Africa and Saudi Arabia in search of better economic opportunity.

Due to COVID-19 induced mobility restrictions, the number of migrants from the sub region has significantly reduced from over 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020.

But thousands of migrants becoming stranded with little access to basic services or protection, IOM said.

The UN migration agency also urged the Government of Ethiopia to restart its voluntary humanitarian Return program to the country, which has been on hold since the start of the pandemic.

Featured Image: The number of migrants travelling from the Horn of Africa to Saudi Arabia through Yemen has recently decreased due to COVID-19 restriction [Photo File/IOM]