Yemeni migration

The war in #Yemen has greatly affected migration and refugee movements from and to the Horn of Africa, but not in the way one would expect. Despite the war, violence, and the horrific humanitarian situation, relatively few #Yemenis have left. Yet, an astonishing number of migrants from the Horn have entered Yemen since the outbreak of the 2015 war.


Yemen is mostly known as a land of immigrants rather than emigrants. Through the centuries, the country, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, forged close connections with the Horn of Africa. Ethiopians occupied Yemen in the fifth century AD and Yemenis were among the first Muslims to settle in Ethiopia, fleeing persecution in the Arabian Peninsula. Yemenis also migrated to the Horn, first as merchants and traders, and later as labor migrants. These long historical ties have affected communities on both sides, leading to a segment of the population being of mixed parentage.


Migration from Yemen spiked in 1973, and again after 1990, which came to be known as the ‘’Yemen unification’’. While the 1973 rise does not appear to have an explanation, the reason for the spike after 1990 is clear. Like other Arabs, Yemenis suffered greatly due to the 1990-91 Gulf War. In fact, more Yemenis lost their jobs permanently as a result of this war than any other group, followed by Palestinians.

Yemenis are a rather unique group among modern Arab immigrants. Some 90 per cent of Yemeni immigrants are unaccompanied men, who immigrated to work, save money, and support their families in Yemen. Few intend to stay permanently abroad. Yemenis largely migrate to the same places they did during the years of the Great Migration and take on the same hard labour jobs, although recently some Yemenis have gone into business as urban shopkeepers.

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