Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Saudi Arabia and Yemen Face People Smuggling Problem | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Police troopers search cars in Sanaa March 15, 2013. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

Police troopers search cars in Sanaa March 15, 2013. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

Police troopers search cars in Sanaa March 15, 2013. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—A prevalent problem in the United States and many European countries is increasingly occupying the governments of Saudi Arabia and Yemen these days.

The number of people entering Saudi Arabia illegally with the assistance of smugglers has become a growing concern for authorities, and the country’s border with the troubled state of Yemen has been the site of a number of arrests in recent months.
Moreover, Yemen has itself become a destination for thousands of Somalians and Ehtiopians. In both cases, the authorities say the migrants are frequently assisted by organized criminal gangs.

Security sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that 6 Arab women, along with their children, had been apprehended attempting to illegally enter the country via the mountainous region along the Saudi-Yemeni border earlier this week.

One of the women, an Egyptian national, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “I came from Egypt by way of a company that claimed that traveling via Yemen [into Saudi Arabia] is easy and legal.”

She added, “I paid a sum of SAR 5,000 to one of the smugglers to allow us to enter [Saudi Arabia] after traveling to Yemen by plane from Egypt.”

Yemeni Interior Minister Abdul Qader Qahtani told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There are organized gangs that transfer them [to Yemen]. They trick them into thinking that they are in Saudi Arabia when they are in Yemen. Following this, they reveal that they are not in Saudi Arabia and pressure them to illegally enter the Kingdom.”

He added: “We are suffering as a result of illegal immigrants from Africa” but emphasized that “coordination is ongoing between ourselves and the Saudi authorities regarding this issue.”

Qahtani acknowledged that the Yemeni security presence in this region is scarce, adding that Yemen, and its people, are poverty-stricken which is why refugees risk illegally entering Saudi Arabia.

He said: “We agree to combat this problem in a reasonable manner in order to preserve the security of the Yemeni people and Saudi Arabia.”

Responding to an Asharq Al-Awsat question, the Yemeni Interior Minister acknowledged that the issue of Arab and African illegal immigrants attempting to enter Saudi Arabia represents a real challenge. He said: “Our deserts are very large and not completely under our control, and African immigrants are constantly attempting to enter illegal while the Republic of Yemen is suffering as a result of this.”

He added “The majority of those who try to enter illegally are looking for work, and there are those who support them unfortunately.”

The Yemeni state news agency SABA reported that the Passport and Immigration Authority (PIA) had deported over 300 Ethiopian illegal immigrants on one day earlier this year.

SABA referenced an “African influx” into Yemen, citing a UNHCR report that a record 107,500 African refugees and migrants made the journey from the Horn of Africa to Yemen in 2012.

The UNHCR report revealed that more than 80 percent of the migrants were Ethiopians, while the rest were Somalis.
The SABA report also claimed that Yemen is host to more than 236,000 refugees. All Somali arrivals are automatically recognized as refugees by Yemeni authorities, while UNHCR conducts refugee status determination for Ethiopians and other nationalities seeking asylum in the country.