Refugee crisis adds to Yemen's woes

It’s a sobering thought that despite all the turmoil in Yemen there are people who look to it as a haven of safety.

Almost a quarter of a million Somalis have fled their homes since May 7 to escape fighting in Mogadishu and up to 12,000 of them have gathered in the northern town of Bossasso, hoping to be smuggled into Yemen.

So far, 30,000 have made the dangerous sea crossing to Yemen but more than 300 have died or gone missing in the process, AP reports via al-Jazeera and the Washington Post.

"These people are obviously reaching the end of their rope,” UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a news conference. “They see no future in Somalia and many of them are so desperate that they're willing to risk their lives and the lives of their families to escape." 

In Yemen itself, four policemen were killed and one injured – apparently by separatists – at al-Ayn (Abyan province). A local official said 10 gunmen attacked at 2am while four of the police were asleep and the fifth was on guard.

The Abyan headquarters of the ruling General People’s Congress was badly damaged by an explosion early yesterday morning. The blast also caused “heavy damage” to the opposition Islah party’s offices nearby, along with several neighbouring houses. The GPC’s website has a report and picture

The Committee to Protect Journalists says it is deeply concerned for the safety of al-Jazeera staff in Yemen after an unknown caller left a threatening message: "Tell the bureau chief that his death is imminent. By God, we will get to him [even] at his home."

The channel’s coverage of disturbances in the south has angered the government and earlier this month a GPC member of parliament called for the station’s office in Sana’a to be closed, on the ground that its reports were damaging the country’s security and stability.

On Monday, an al-Jazeera crew were the only journalistsrefused entry to a discussion of security issues in parliament. The parliamentary speaker later denied giving instructions to keep them out.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 29 July 2009