Thursday, April 5, 2012

Yemen security units free 21 Ethiopian detainees

Security units in Haradh district in Hajjah governorate freed 21 Ethiopians, among whom were 14 women. They had been detained in a yard adjoining a house belonging to Aishan Hadadi, 30, and Mohammed Ali Hunaish Hadadi, 45, according to the Ministry of Interior Media Center.

Security sources in Haradh said they broke into the house where the Ethiopians were detained and arrested three individuals. The three men were charged with illegally detaining the Ethiopian immigrants and two of the three were charged with torturing and beating the detainees with electrical cables and metal chains. 

Following an investigation, the detainees said that they had been kept in a room in the yard and that they had been forced to contact relatives in Saudi Arabia so as to procure money for their release. The detainees confirmed that the arrested smugglers had tortured them for this reason.  Security units proceeded to send the released Ethiopians to a voluntary repatriation center for immigrants. The arrested kidnappers were meanwhile referred for interrogation. 
In a related issue, an unidentified boat belonging to human smugglers dropped 148 Somali refugees on the coast of al-Hamra’a in Broom in Hadhramout province. Security units said that 21 women and 11 children were among the Somali refugees.

The refugees were apprehended and handed over to the UNHCR to be sent to a holding camp for refugees in Maif’ah in Shabwah in preparation for transport to Kharaz in Lahj. It is worth noting that more than 250 refugees have arrived at the Dhbab coast in Taiz from the Horn of Africa over the last week. Recent Illegal Detentions and Extortion Attempts The news that about 70 African men and women had been subjected to torture, beatings, extortion and kidnapping by armed gangs in a remote area in Hajjah governorate near the Saudi Arabian border  led to the opening of an investigation by local and security authorities in al-Hodeidah.  
Those 170 men and women had traveled from Ethiopia and Somalia and were detained in a house in the east of Hardh. When they were found, they were wearing only undergarments. The detained Africans were discovered after one individual managed to escape by jumping from the yard’s wall before reporting the detention site to authorities. According to the detainees, the kidnappers had beaten them with pipes and burned their bodies with cigarettes. 

 A high-ranking official who spoke on the condition anonymity said, “This is a very unique case. No one could have imagined that those Africans had been detained in the house of one of the smugglers for such a long period; even now, we don’t the total number of resulting deaths.”
According to director of security Mohammed Nijad, many victims had attempted to enter Saudi Arabia find job opportunities, but had ended up in the hands of gangs of smugglers that demanded thousands of dollars for their release. Berhane Taklu-Nagga, director of the UNHCR office in Hardh, said that African immigrants had suffered from acts of torture until their families, who lived abroad, would send ransom money for their release.

 Earlier, Yemen Observer published an article about the torture of African immigrants with pictures on March 6, 2012, based on a report published by the Ministry of Interior.
The article stated that 170 Africans had been detained and tortured by armed gangs of smugglers from January 2011 until February 2012.   The report also stated that among the victims were 91 men, 10 women, 50 children and 19 elderly individuals. Most had been brutally beaten, burned, and punched in the face, leading to hearing loss and blinding. Last February, security units arrested two smugglers from armed groups; the first was later charged with detaining 49 Ethiopians, and the second with detaining 79 African people.

Hamoud Haider, head of the local authority in Haradh said that authorities are continuing to search for 20 Ethiopian girls who are believed to have been subjected to torture and rape.  
Taklu-Nagga said that rape represents one of the most common forms of torture and that, according to witnesses, most of the women - estimated to have reached 3,000 last year – had been repeatedly raped by human traffickers. He said that 24 women had been interviewed and that 17 of them said that they had been raped by traffickers over the past year.

“The real number may be higher as rape victims do not always reveal that they had been raped, especially those from conservative African communities, where rape victims can be abandoned and deserted by their communities.  In several cases, rape crimes have led to pregnancy. “The smugglers released me after 8 months when my father paid around $5,000. I had to have an abortion and my husband should never know what happened to me…this baby should never see the light of day,” she said.  Reports state that not only did the traffickers rape women, but they also raped men who tried to prevent smugglers and armed men from raping women, one victim told the IRIN.
Neighbors and local citizens said they consistently heard cries and screams. These screams came as the result of torture, as many of the torture victims lost body parts. A 30-year-old man from Ethiopia, Ademi Abdullah Alysri, said that he had been tortured for two months in the Abs area of Hajjah. “I was beaten by the gangs for more than 50 days and I wasn’t even given tissues to wipe the blood from my eyes,” said Ademi. He said that the traffickers who kidnapped him told him that he had five days to call anybody outside Yemen who could pay for his release. 

Many citizens said they had felt afraid to report the cries and the screams that they heard at night. When the local authority and local council went to check the house where the screams emanated from, they were attacked by armed groups, leaving some individuals injured, said Haider, head of the local council.
At present, 19 houses with high walls are suspected of being used to hold and detain African immigrants. In spite of the instability and disorder that swept through much of the country last year, the number of Ethiopians that arrived in Yemen has been reported to have increased by 100 percent. According to the International Organization for Migration, until December of last year, more than 65,000 Ethiopians arrived in Yemen, as compared with 34,422 in 2010.  Taklu-Nagga, director of the UNHCR office in Haradh, said between 10,000 and 15,000 illegal Ethiopian immigrants arrive in Haradh every year.   

Source:  Yemen Observer (

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