Saleh Saeed Nasser has been patrolling Yemen’s coastline for 15 years. For most of his career, he’s seen migrants arrive on the pristine shores of Shabwa province from the Horn of Africa.
But in recent years, as his country’s three-year civil war has brought on terrorism and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, something counterintuitive has started happening: More migrants from Africa are rushing to shore and overwhelming the coastline he patrols as a member of the country’s Coast Guard. More than 87,000 migrants arrived last year alone.
Now, Saleh says he needs 2,000 men to properly police this stretch of Yemen’s vast coastline. He only has 185.
“The government is busy with bigger issues — resources are scarce,” he said.
Yemen is locked in the middle of a conflict — proxy battle between Iranian-backed Houthis and a Saudi-backed coalition— that has thrown 20 million people into a sprawling humanitarian crisis. Nearly 10,000 people have been killed and 53,000 more wounded in the conflict, according to the United Nations, though many believe the figures are much higher.
Despite this grim reality, African migrants are fleeing crises at home in search of employment and opportunity in Saudi Arabia, and are hoping to pass through Yemen’s war zone to get there. VICE News witnessed hundreds of migrants starting their long walk from the shores of Bi’r Ali in south-east Yemen to the Saudi border.
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