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    Illegal African immigrants seek to return from Yemen due to worsening living conditi

    Illegal African immigrants sit on a street pavement in the southern port
    city of Aden, Yemen, on May 29, 2019. (Xinhua/Murad Abdo)

    Feature: Illegal African immigrants seek to return from Yemen due to worsening living conditions

    by Murad Abdo

    ADEN, Yemen, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of illegal African immigrants who arrived in Yemen's southern port city of Aden and other neighboring provinces are asking for assistance to return to their countries as living conditions there have worsened.

    Their requests increased as they face harsh living conditions and outbreak of epidemics inside a number of detention centers established by the Yemeni security authorities.

    On Tuesday, the Yemeni government authorities announced to deport 124 illegal African immigrants as the first batch back to their countries voluntarily.

    A source from Yemen's Interior Ministry said that the country's government cooperated with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to deport the first batch to Ethiopia through Aden's International Airport.

    But thousands of others are still detained by Yemen's security authorities in different detention centers in Aden and other neighboring southern province such as Lahj and Abyan amid difficult living conditions.

    Local charity organizations have been providing basic supplies including foods and clean drinking water for the illegal immigrants detained in a sports stadium in Aden province since last April.

    Representatives from a local charity organization told Xinhua that deporting the illegal African immigrants will be the only solution to save their lives, otherwise they will face death as a result of hunger or diseases.

    "The majority of the illegal immigrants do not want to stay in Yemen because the living conditions in their countries are much better than here," said Saleh Qataby, a humanitarian youth activist based in Aden.

    "They spent months of suffering inside detention centers and that's unfair because they have the right to survive this suffering and go back to their homes," he said.

    He added that some illegal immigrants preferred to stay and work freely in Yemen, which is not allowed by the security forces.

    A group of illegal immigrants said that during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, their suffering mounted as the heat started to broil their tents inside detention centers.

    "We managed to get out of the detention center, because there is not enough food or water, and high temperature multiplied our miserable situation," an Ethiopian said in Aden's neighborhood of Sheikh Othman.

    A security officer in Aden told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that the second batch of deportation was expected to start through Aden's airport this morning, but it was postponed for unknown reasons.

    He said that "three large buses arrived at the stadium but did not transfer the illegal immigrants to the airport after receiving instructions on delaying the journey."

    On Monday, the IOM said in a statement that over 2,300 illegal Ethiopian immigrants detained in Aden were due to return home this week.

    It said that an eight-day operation, set to begin on May 25, was delayed by rescinded flight permissions.

    Since mid-April, authorities in Aden, Abyan and Lahj governorates have detained irregular migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, in makeshift detention sites.

    Up to 5,000 people were held in two sports stadium and one military camp without basic services.

    Earlier in May, Yemen's health officials said an outbreak of cholera has killed 21 illegal African immigrants and asylum-seekers, and infected over 450 others in the government-controlled southern province of Lahj.

    The illegal immigrants arrived in the war-ravaged Arab country seeking for safety, but ended up in unexpectedly miserable living conditions. They have been struggling to survive deadly cholera, a preventable water-borne bacterial illness that causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration.

    Thousands of illegal African immigrants looking for a better life were using Yemen as a transit point to their final destination, such as Saudi Arabia or other Gulf states.

    Notably, scores of illegal immigrants from Somalia and Ethiopia have died off the coast of Yemen in recent months.

    Yemen has been plagued in a civil war between the government forces and Houthi rebels since late 2014, which has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians.

    The long-running conflict has caused the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Currently, some 24 million Yemenis, or 80 percent of the total population, need humanitarian aid and protection, according to the United Nations.
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