17 April 2015

UNHCR has called on all countries to allow civilians fleeing Yemen access to their territories and to suspend forcible returns of nationals or habitual residents of Yemen to the country.

UNHCR specifies that the suspension of returns is a minimum standard and should not be used to deviate from international protection obligations. In reaching this conclusion, UNHCR highlights the deterioration of political stability, as well as an increase in air strikes, leading to a sharp rise in civilian fatalities, and fears that Yemen is on the brink of civil war with continuous armed conflict prevailing between the government and Houthi forces.

UNHCR reports that by the end of 2014, more than 330,000 Yemenis were internally displaced. Yemen is already hosting more than 250,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia and countries from the Horn of Africa.

Additionally, the publication details “an acute humanitarian crisis in Yemen caused by years of conflict, drought, and chronic poverty” with two thirds of the population in need of humanitarian assistance.

The current instability has exacerbated already strained facilities with aid agencies reporting difficulties in accessing those in need.

According to the UNHCR report, the mixture of conflict and weak rule of law has led to human rights abuses, gender-based violence, violations of children’s rights, trafficking, smuggling and military recruitment of children.

Norway announced this week it has suspended returns to Yemen.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 17 April 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.