Somali woman carrying her child as she walks past UN-donated tents at a refugee camp 150 km west of Yemen's southern city of Aden. (Photo: Archive/EPA/Yahya Arhab)
Somali woman carrying her child as she walks past UN-donated tents at a refugee camp 150 km west of Yemen's southern city of Aden. (Photo: Archive/EPA/Yahya Arhab)

The International Organization for Migration facilitated the return of 418 migrants from Yemen with the first voluntary repatriation flight from the country in more than three years.

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) this week began assisting 418 Ethiopian migrants stranded in Yemen to safely return to their country under IOM's Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) operation. 


This is the IOM's first airlift since shortly after the conflict broke out in 2015, and the largest VHR operation carried out by the IOM in Yemen to date. 

One-fourth of repatriated are minors 

On November 26, 102 Ethiopian migrants travelled from Yemen's Sana'a International Airport to Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. In three subsequent flights scheduled through November 29, another 316 migrants followed. More than a quarter of the passengers — 121 of the returning 418 migrants — were minors. The IOM has been assisting many of the migrants returning this week for at least six months. 

In 2018, IOM's VHR programme helped 668 migrants return to Ethiopia by ship across the Gulf of Aden. However, unstable weather conditions at sea combined with escalated fighting in and around Al Hudaydah ports posed major operational challenges during previous return operations. 

Safe and dignified repatriations 

"The first airlift return operation increases IOM's ability to ensure that migrants who wish to leave Yemen can do so in a safe and dignified manner," said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM's Director of Operations and Emergencies. He added: "The airlift, made possible through close cooperation with authorities in Yemen and Ethiopia, opens the way for improved humanitarian assistance for migrants in Yemen." 

IOM estimates that nearly 100,000 migrants reached Yemen in 2017. By the end of 2018, this number will likely have increased by 50 percent. 
 

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