Thursday, June 20, 2024

Europe Should Pay Attention to Yemenis Fleeing Their War-torn Country

Sana’a, Yemen – It was January 13 at around 2:30 am at a refugee camp in Vlissingen, The Netherlands, when a refugee spotted a body hanging in the backyard. He called the police, and soon the body was recognized. Haitham al-Hirdi, a 19-year-old Yemeni citizen, had attempted suicide earlier in the day and was stopped by his mates. To the shock of many at the camp, Haitham’s life could have been saved if the authorities had given him the proper care. As some of his close mates recall, Haitham had privately voiced his intention to end his life, citing the hardship he had been through. The camp’s doctor and the police were informed of Haitham’s case long before he managed to carry out his plan. Haitham’s colleagues acknowledge that he had some emotional and mental problems. They would try to calm him down, but they also informed the authorities there of the situation. Haitham’s application for asylum had been approved about a week earlier; waiting for about nine months moving between different camps, Haitham seemed to have lost every hope and decided to end his suffering once and for all. 

For moral and logical reasons, I do think that European countries should give special treatment and exceptions to the Yemeni citizens seeking refuge. Yemen was the poorest country in the Arab world when the relentless war waged by its rich neighboring countries in March 2015 destroyed whatever was left of its economy and infrastructure. The United Nations has called Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. Indeed, Yemen has earned that horrifying designation. The war has had its heavy toll on almost everything that relates to the survival of its estimated 31 million population. Close to 400,000 people have been killed by both direct and indirect causes of the war. Those who have survived the direct causes have lost their livelihoods to some warfare tactics. Since August 2016, public employees have been denied their only source of income that would support about ten million others of their relatives. The private sector has also suffered a great deal, with systematic direct bombing attacks. The fishing business was, too, a target for Saudi Arabia, which leads the war coalition, which has significantly decreased the business activity across the western coast of Yemen. That’s why the number of Yemenis reliant on aid provided by the UN now stands at 21 million people. But it’s much worse than that. About 16 million are knocking on famine’s door, and there are some two million acutely malnourished children. 

Even those who can afford the hefty price of living can face a similar end as the poor people, which is another reason why Europe should ease the restriction on asylum for Yemenis fleeing their war-torn country. Unlike Syrians, Ukrainians, and others who seem to have no obstacles in their way out of their countries, most Yemenis have had their only airport closed by the Saudi coalition. No one can leave for either study or urgent medical treatment unavailable in the country where half of its health system has been destroyed, and the other half barely functions. To make it out of Yemen, one can only take dangerous routes. The recent ease of restriction on the commercial flight out of Sana’a Int’l Airport covers only a fraction of those who need urgent treatment abroad. It’s only one flight a week, after all. Even that rare opportunity is prone to disappear depending on the ongoing talks brokered by the UN between the warring parties. The number of patients who had been unable to travel and died prematurely – estimated at 35 thousand – clearly shows how dire the situation is. 

And yet, surviving under such conditions has become mere luck for those who don’t require travel yet are trapped inside. The food and medicine available in the markets keep getting dangerous for consumption. With the oversight role exercised by the government getting stretched thin, some food and medicine factories have found their way to thrive. In October last year, some ten child leukemia patients died at a government-run hospital in Sana’a after being injected with some toxic injections that were later found to have been smuggled. As such drugs are banned from easy entry, the government and private companies have relied on some shady and dangerous medium to get the drugs for the growing number of patients needing chemotherapy. And late last year, some food plant was discovered producing food with expired raw materials and unsafe working conditions. Also, another unlicensed plant was found late last year making fake trademarks inside an apartment. There must be some others who are doing similar business, a worrying cause for many families. And until the authorities know them, countless innocent people must have been killed or seriously harmed. 

Yemenis, or at least the 22 million who live under the strict blockade by the Saudi coalition, deserve some attention to their suffering, not least due to their kind treatment of the refugees flocking into their country. Yemen is the only country in the Arab world to recognize the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. Since 1990, Yemen has accepted around one million Somali refugees who work and live with dignity and respect. Europe and the world should return the favor and allow Yemenis in without the bureaucracy and strict conditions applied to the asylum status. Despite being the worst crisis in the world, the number of Yemenis registered under the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) mandate reached 277 thousand in 2022, which stands in stark difference to the Syrians, whose number reached around seven million during the same period, according to the recent statistics by UNHCR. 

The Saudi war on Yemen has done irreparable damage to the country and its people for the past eight years. The Yemeni seeking refuge in Europe or elsewhere should be treated fairly like those whose countries have faced war but have a functioning exit to flee. The host countries should remember that most Yemenis live in a big and toxic prison called Yemen. Its citizens who have made it out of Yemen did so under risky conditions. Many have left Yemen, leaving behind some unforgettable experiences and hardships that would keep haunting them if not taken care of. Yemen has been so kind to anyone who sought refuge. The treatment they expect from others during their hard time should be similar. So far, they have seen unfairness and cruelty. For Europe and other countries, coming late is, of course, better than not.

Author profile
Ahmad Algohbary

Ahmad is a Yemeni freelance journalist based in the Netherlands.He is also the founder of Hope Relief Charity.

- Advertisement -spot_img
- Advertisement -spot_img
- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest news

Impact of CPEC 2.0 on Gilgit Baltistan (POJK)

Washington, DC - Despite financial and security concerns, Pakistan and China have launched CPEC 2.0 with a renewed emphasis...

‘Born in the USA’ Turns 40 − and Still Remains one of Bruce Springsteen’s Most Misunderstood Songs

Elton John, Adele and R.E.M. did it. So did Rihanna and the Rolling Stones. If Donald Trump tried to...

High Interest Rates Aren’t Going Away Anytime Soon – a Business Economist Explains Why

Christopher Decker, University of Nebraska Omaha The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady at its May 1, 2024, policy meeting,...

Tibetan Advocacy and Hope: Conversation with Ven. Geshe Lharampa Gowo Lobsang Phende

Venerable Geshe Lharampa Gowo Lobsang Phende, member of the 17th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile from the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism...
- Advertisement -spot_img
- Advertisement -spot_img

Election-Angst and the Best of Bad Choices

*Huge thanks to Kit Nicholson for research, writing, and retaining hope in what is to come. In November of 2020,...

Echoes of Cochin: The Enduring Legacy of Kerala’s Jewish Community

The Cochin Jews: A Historical Overview The Cochin Jews, a distinctive Jewish community, have called the Malabar Coast of southwestern...

Must read

Echoes of Cochin: The Enduring Legacy of Kerala’s Jewish Community

The Cochin Jews: A Historical Overview The Cochin Jews, a...