.
.
.
.

Migrants call for international probe into Yemen fire that killed at least 44

Published: Updated:

A leader of the migrant community in the Yemeni capital on Saturday called for an international probe into a fire that tore through a detention center last week, killing at least 44 people, mostly Ethiopian migrants.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

In a news conference in Sanaa, Othman Gilto, who heads the Ethiopian community, blamed “negligence” by the Iran-backed Houthi militia who control the capital, as well as the United Nations, which has aid agencies present in Yemen. The fire also injured more than 200 people, he said.

Some 900 migrants, mostly from Ethiopia, were detained at the facility — including 350 inside a warehouse — when the fire took place on Sunday, according to the International Organization for Migration. That was three times the facility’s capacity, it added.

At least 43 of the dead were buried in a Sanaa cemetery on Friday amid tight security. Women from the migrant community were seen screaming and crying while ambulances, carrying the bodies, arrived from a funeral service at a major mosque.

Ethiopian migrants, stranded in war-torn Yemen, sit on the ground of a detention site pending repatriation to their home country, in Aden, Yemen April 24, 2019. (Reuters)
Ethiopian migrants, stranded in war-torn Yemen, sit on the ground of a detention site pending repatriation to their home country, in Aden, Yemen April 24, 2019. (Reuters)

Abdallah al-Leithi, head of the Sudanese community in Sanaa, said many of the dead lacked IDs and could not be identified, adding that most “had not given their real names” on documentation before the fire.

There were no immediate comments from the Houthis.

The UN migration agency has called for those responsible for the tragedy to be held accountable, said Olivia Headon, the agency’s spokeswoman in Yemen.

“We stand with the victims of the fire. Migrants urgently need more protection and support in Yemen, or we will continue to see them suffer and lives lost. A step in this direction is to ensure that the victims of the fire and their families have the accountability they deserve following the horrific incident,” she said.

Survivors and local rights campaigners say the deadly blaze erupted when guards fired tear gas into the crowded warehouse, trying to end a protest against alleged abuses and ill-treatment at the facility.

The Houthis did not state the cause of the fire, mention a protest or give a final casualty toll. They had said an investigation was opened but no conclusions have been announced. The Houthis also prevented the UN migration agency from accessing injured migrants at hospitals, the agency said.

Read more:

Arab Coalition destroys Houthi air defense system in Yemen’s Marib

Yemen: Fighting in Marib intensifies as pro-govt forces defend northern stronghold

US ‘alarmed’ by escalating attacks against Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthis