(IRIN) – The army in Yemen has started a crackdown on illegal smuggling hideouts in the north where migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa are frequently held against their will and tortured by criminal gangs looking for ransom money.
In the last four weeks, 1,620 migrants, including women and children, have been freed in army raids around the northern town of Haradh close to the border with Saudi Arabia, according to information from the International medical NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). It says most of the released migrants it treated at the MSF-run Al-Mazraq hospital had been victims of human trafficking, forced labour and slavery.
“There are clear signs of extreme violence. Fingernails have been pulled out and many are badly beaten. We welcome this clampdown, but there are almost certainly thousands more migrants in captivity, and for those released, welcome centres and humanitarian NGOs are seriously overstretched,” Tarek Daher, MSF’s head of mission in Yemen, told IRIN.
Migrants recently told IRIN horrific stories of the kidnapping and torture they had experienced after landing in Yemen. Around a 107,000 crossed from the Horn of Africa into Yemen in 2012, most originally from Ethiopia, according to UNHCR, and at least 30,000 have made the journey so far this year.