Tough Choices for Civilians Caught up in Yemen Conflict

As the conflict in Yemen intensifies, many people caught up in the ensuing violence are forced to contemplate difficult decisions of what to do and where to flee in search of refuge. A group of 511 new arrivals from Yemen were received at the Bossaso port in Puntland on 16th April 2015. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has been present since the arrival of the first batch of Somali returnees and Yemenis at a temporary-designated reception centre in Bossaso.

Ahmed Alomki is a 21 year-old Yemeni youth who recently arrived in Bossaso with his elder brother and sister-in-law. He was working as an English teacher at a private school in Aden but had to flee when the conflict became too intense in his neighborhood.

“When the fighting began, many of our neighbors urged us to join and defend our neighborhood. We were even supplied with guns and ammunitions but my brother and I refused. It was difficult saying no but I don’t believe in war. I just don’t want to die for nothing,” says Ahmed.

Before the conflict started, Ahmed had just come back to Aden from Jordan where he had escaped to in 2011 at the onset of the Arab spring and the revolution in Yemen. He had high hopes when he returned to Aden, as he was soon to begin his wedding preparations - but the eruption of conflict has put his plans on hold.

“Wallahi, I feel broken by the conflict. I have had to leave behind my fiancée and it kills me that I could not do anything to help her. But I know she is safe with her parents back in the north,” added Ahmed.

Many Yemeni’s just like Ahmed and other civilians caught up in the conflict are being forced to make difficult decisions under the current circumstances.

Safio Mohamed is 35 years and is originally from Mogadishu where she fled after clan conflicts erupted in her village. She has lived in Aden for the last 19 years as a UNHCR recognized refugee and was working as a housemaid. She also had to flee with her two children when the conflict intensified in Aden.

“The situation became very bad. We feared for our lives because of the bombing every day and there was no water, electricity and food was beginning to be scarce,” says Safio.

Safio together with other Somali and Yemeni families managed to flee from Aden in hired cars but they had to pay 25,000 Yemeni riyal (USD 116) for the ride to Mukalla where they were to board a boat that was heading to Bossaso.

“We were in a convoy of three cars but the other two cars were unfortunately bombed as we escaped. It was terrible,” says Safio.

She and her children were able to get onto a boat leaving for Bossaso and were assisted by other Yemeni and Somali families to pay for the boat fare since she had spent all her remaining money to pay for the car that transported her to Mukalla.

“I was overjoyed to reach here [in Bossaso]. We were well received and were given clean water and biscuits. I felt a very big change from the situation we left behind. I don’t think I want to ever go back to Yemen after what we went through,” says Safio. Her plan now is to go back to Mogadishu as that is where her relatives are.

These sentiments are echoed by Ahmed who says, “I feel safe here. At least I don’t have to worry about stray bullets or bombings.” His immediate plan is to get to Hargeisa where he has some relatives and friends.

DRC is part of the humanitarian agencies offering assistance to the new arrivals at the reception centre in Bossaso. DRC has been providing water and biscuits to the new arrivals upon their arrival at the Bossaso port as well as with meals (breakfast, lunch and supper) throughout their stay at the reception centre.