AL-MUKALLA: Iran-backed Houthis have kidnapped and forcibly deported hundreds of African migrants from the Yemeni capital Sanaa in the past 24 hours, forcing them to cross into government-controlled areas in a bid to suppress demands for an investigation into a deadly fire at a detention center, activists and local media said.
On Saturday, the militia seized dozens of African migrants in the city, a day after brutally breaking up a protest by hundreds of people outside the UN office.
Arafat Jibrel Bakre, an Ethiopian lawyer and activist based in Eritrea, told Arab News that Houthi operatives on Saturday forced dozens of African migrants off public buses and began preparations to deport them to government-controlled areas.
“The Houthis stopped buses, asked black-skinned passengers to get out and then pushed them into their vehicles,” she said.
Bakre said that the militia has launched a crackdown on African migrants protesting against mistreatment and calling for a probe into a fire at migrant holding detention in Sanaa on March 7 that claimed the lives of least 60 migrants, most of them Ethiopian.
On Friday, the Houthis kidnapped more than 200 African migrants, including 55 women and 11 children, who had been camping outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office in the capital, demanding an investigation into the deadly fire.
According to residents, activists and local media, the Houthis surrounded the gathering before firing live ammunition. The militia then seized the migrants and forced them into large vehicles.
“Many people were wounded,” Bakre said.
Kidnapped migrants were taken to a police station in Thamar province, where the Houthis took their fingerprints and threatened to punish them if they returned to Sanaa.
The migrants were later taken to an area between Taiz and Lahj.
“Some of the abducted women locked their children inside homes in Sanaa before going to the sit-in to give food to their siblings,” Bakre said.
Shortly after storming the protest on Friday, the Houthis kidnapped 140 migrants from their homes in Sanaa’s Hadda street and took them to the same police station in Thamar before dumping them in Taiz.
“The first group of the expelled migrants arrived in Aden today. They had not eaten since Thursday night,” the Ethiopian lawyer said, adding that some of the expelled migrants urged her to alert the international community about their ordeal.
“They want justice, compensation and to be able to bury those killed in the fire,” she said.
Local media said on Saturday that hundreds of African migrants have been deported from areas under Houthi control and forced into government-controlled areas.
Yemen Press Network (Yazaan) published a video showing dozens of women, children and men expelled from Sanaa walking along a road toward government-controlled areas in southern Yemen.
Local and international right groups blame the Houthis for the deaths of dozens of African migrants after explosive devices were thrown inside their overcrowded detention center in Sanaa on March 7.
The incident sparked global outrage, and prompted the Yemeni government, Western diplomats and activists to call for an international investigation.