• Crisis Severity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Impact ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Humanitarian Conditions ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Complexity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Access Constraints ?
    No constraints
    Extreme constraints

Key figures

  • 30,939,000 People exposed [?]
  • 422,000 People displaced [?]
  • 0 Severe humanitarian conditions - Level 4



Despite the conflict and a dire humanitarian situation, Yemen remains the largest mixed migration route in the world for migrants heading to Gulf countries from East Africa. An estimated 500,000 migrants arrived in Yemen between 2016 and 2019. In 2019 alone, over 138,000 migrants crossed the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. Most migrants and refugees in Yemen come from Ethiopia (over 90% of them) and Somalia. Around 55% of the migrants crossing to Yemen are young males under the age of 25 and more than 30% are unaccompanied or separated minors. Women make up 15% of the total. Altogether, more than 422,000 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants live in Yemen?.

Migrants and refugees in Yemen are vulnerable during every phase of their journey. In addition to the direct risks associated with the armed conflict, they often face language and cultural barriers to accessing humanitarian services. They generally lack social safety nets and frequently face discrimination from the host population, in relation to access to already scarce resources, including food, housing, health care and employment. Migrants have serious protection needs and are at risk of exploitation and abuse. Discrimination, detention, kidnapping, torture, rape, and forced recruitment are extremely common. Authorities often detain migrants and refugees, regardless of their status. They are held in makeshift detention centers with little to no services, including poor sanitation, resulting in dangerous health conditions ?.

COVID-19 reduced migrant arrivals in 2020, following steady increases year on year since 2011.  Over 35,000 migrants entered Yemen in 2020, a decrease of 75% compared to 138,000 in 2019. Despite the notable reduction in migrant arrivals this year, conditions for those stranded in Yemen due to increased barriers to movements is extremely concerning as they are usually more vulnerable and require humanitarian assistance to satisfy basic needs ?

Latest Developments


12/04/2021: 43 migrants died after a boat travelling from Yemen to Djibouti capsized off the coast of Djibouti on 12 April. This is the second incident in over a month, as another 20 migrants died in early March in the same waters. The number of African migrants arrivals to Djibouti from Yemen increased from 1,900 in February to 2,343 in March. Thousands of migrants are in dire conditions in Yemen, lacking access to food, shelter, protection and healthcare. Many decide to take the journey back home after having been stranded in Yemen for months due to movement restrictions related to COVID-19, conflict and depletion of resources.?

Humanitarian Access


Increased conflict and the spread of COVID-19 have hampered humanitarian access to migrants and refugees in Yemen. Bureaucratic impediments imposed on collecting data by the northern authorities and restricted movement have created difficulties in responding to the increased humanitarian and protection needs of migrants both in the north and south of Yemen?

Download the full Humanitarian Access Overview

Information Gaps and Needs


There is a lack of data on the migrant situation in Yemen. Little is known about the exact number of migrants, their location, or their needs due to access constraints.  



 The first case of COVID-19 reported by the authorities in northern Yemen was on 5 May 2020, a Somali refuge. Since then, migrants have faced acts of xenophobia and increased challenges to access basic services while being stigmatised as carriers of the disease. Worrying signs of discrimination, stigmatisation and marginalisation are on the rise?.

Only 888 refugees and migrants from East Africa arrived in Yemen between July and September 2020. 572 refugees and migrants arrived in July, and 316 arrived in August. This is a 97% decrease in arrivals compared to the first quarter of 2020, when 27,948 arrivals were recorded. In August and September, roughly three boats per month were reported?.

Due to the impact of the pandemic, traditional migration routes through Yemen on to Saudi Arabia are blocked. As a result, many refugees and migrants risk detention and forced relocation. Since the start of 2021, 2,000 migrants are being held in detention, and close to 8,000 have been forcibly transferred from northern governorates like Sa’ada, Sana’a, Al Hodeidah, and Al Jawf  to southern governorates like Aden and Lahj ?. Others were forced towards the border with Saudi Arabia. Migrants and refugees have experienced arrest, detention and quarantine in conditions which do not meet minimum health standards and making them more vulnerable to diseases?.

Stranded migrants are one of the most vulnerable groups in the country. Locations like Marib, where migrants traditionally transited through, are now hosting stranded migrant populations, more than 5,000 by November 2020. Migrants have little access to food, water and shelter. Many refugees and migrants stranded in Marib and Aden, have requested assistance to return to East Africa. However, humanitarian flights and voluntary repatriation was suspended for much of the last six months. As a result, there have been steady reports of refugees and migrants making spontaneous returns back to the Horn of Africa. Many are turning to smugglers in an attempt to return to their country of origin, due to the lack of other options, increasing their exposure to serious physical harm, protection risks, abuse and exploitation?


Key Priorities


Protection: migrants and refugees in Yemen continue to experience severe human rights violations, including detention, forced deportation to frontlines and torture. At the same time trafficking remains a serious protection risk. An increasing number of refugees and migrants report incidents of abuse and trafficking on their journey to Yemen and on arrival. Increasing numbers of unaccompanied minors arereaching Yemen. They are often vulnerable to abuse, child labour and prostitution?

Food insecurity: malnutrition is common among migrants and refugees in Yemen. They are in need of food assistance and nutrition interventions, and are more likely to face challenges accessing markets.  

Health:  Increased stigmatisation of migrants as carriers of COVID-19 limits their access to health services.     

Education: estimations suggest that more than 80% of male refugee children and more than 70% female refugee children who do not go to school, either doing nothing or engaging in begging ?