Migrants Depart on First Ever Return Flight from Conflict-Affected Ma’rib

An IOM staff registers a migrant prior to travel. Photo: Elham Al-Oqabi/IOM Yemen 2022

Corrected version as of 17:30

Ma'rib – Today, 127 Ethiopian stranded migrants are flying to Addis Ababa on the first-ever Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) flight from conflict-affected Ma’rib to Addis Ababa. It is the first of several flights the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has planned to help 900 Ethiopians move out of Ma’rib in the coming month.

Thousands of others are waiting in dire conditions for this same chance to return. IOM requires USD 7.5 million to keep these flights running from Ma’rib and Aden.

“Migrants stranded in Ma’rib are living in fear. Many are under the control of smuggling groups who subject migrants to exploitation and violence,” said Christa Rottensteiner, IOM Yemen's Chief of Mission.

“The cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of helping those who are stranded and desperate to leave a dire situation. We urgently need greater support from donors to help move people out of danger’s way.”

Ma’rib has been one of the main hotspots of Yemen’s seven-year conflict with the urban centre of Ma’rib city located some 25 kilometres from the nearest frontline.

The governorate faces the highest levels of displacement in the country with nearly one million Yemenis displaced there since the start of the conflict. In recent years, it has also become a transit point for migrants making their way toward the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

An estimated 4,500 migrants are stranded in Ma’rib – unable to cross dangerous frontlines to reach their destination or held against their will for prolonged periods of time by smugglers. Some have been seeking a way to safely leave Yemen for two years.

Women migrants in Ma’rib are particularly vulnerable. They frequently report violations including sexual violence. Some fall pregnant and must find ways to care for infants while living in poor conditions without access to adequate healthcare, food and other basic needs.

In addition to flights, IOM provides registration and documentation services, medical consultations, as well as safe accommodation to ensure the protection of traveling migrants prior to takeoff.

Upon arrival, returning migrants will also be provided with accommodation at the IOM transit centre, cash for onward travel to their home community, family tracing and reunification, medical screening and psychosocial support.

Scheduled VHR flights from Ma’rib are supported by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and the Government of Norway.

IOM’s humanitarian assistance and protection services in response to the needs of the returnees are aligned with the Regional Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa and Yemen, 2022.

Read more about violations facing migrants across Yemen.

Photo gallery of IOM’s response to migrants in Yemen.

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