In November 2016, SG’s latest mission supporting the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) helped evacuate 127 vulnerable Somalis fleeing the present conflict in Yemen. The men, women and children arrived in Berbera, Somaliland, from Aden, Yemen on SG’s vessel ALADIN, contracted by the IOM with financial support from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief).
This was the first evacuation under the one-year KSrelief-funded project implemented by IOM and UNHCR, which mission is for ‘Increased Access to Safe Movement, Protection and Durable Solutions for Returnees, Refugees and Migrants Fleeing the Yemen Crisis’. The successful operation paves the way for the planned evacuation of 2,500 Somali nationals who are still stranded in Yemen, which will be carried out over the next 7 months.
Speaking at the Berbera Port, IOM Somalia’s Heidrun Salzer said: “With financial support from KSrelief, IOM intends to continue evacuation operations to help as many vulnerable families as possible before this project ends. We thank all the authorities who provided the access and support IOM needed to carry out this first evacuation.”
A number of senior Somaliland government officials were at the port to receive the returnees. The General Director at the Ministry of Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Abdinasir Haji, said: “We are the institution that is responsible for migrants, returnees and refugees, but we would not have been able to organize this evacuation without support from the Evacuation Steering Committee.”
“This is a historical day because of all the boats that have ever evacuated families from Yemen, this is the best. For that, we thank KSrelief for their support and IOM for their coordination. As a ministry, we have endeavored to ensure that all the 127 people on this boat will receive a proper welcome here in Somaliland,” he said.
This first boat evacuation required multiple and complex logistical arrangements, and over three months of coordination between SG and the IOM together with local authorities in departure and arrival locations. This included the creation of Cholera treatment units in Yemen refugee camps and departure ports by the ministry of health, IOM and UNHCR.
“The need for evacuations is substantial. Since the start of the conflict in Yemen, migrants, and family members of people believed to be stranded in Yemen have overwhelmed IOM with calls, asking for evacuation assistance,” said Salzer.
By the end of the project, which started on 1 June 2016 and has involved SG conducting numerous other evacuation missions, almost 20,000 people fleeing from war-torn Yemen are expected to have received protection and emergency assistance. The project is designed to contribute to increased access to safe, orderly and humane returns from Yemen to Somalia; improve access of persons of concern to protection and assistance; improve access of refugees, returnees and migrants to durable solutions; and strengthen partnerships at the national and regional level.