Kenya to evacuate 500 Kenyans stranded from Yemen

Saturday April 11 2015

Supporters of the Shiite Houthi militia shout slogans in Yemen's second largest city of Taiz on April 10, 2015. Kenya has arranged to evacuate its stranded citizens. PHOTO | ABDULRAHMAN ABDULLAH |

Kenya has begun evacuating its nationals stranded in Yemen as fighting continues between Houthi Shiite rebels and government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

The Houthis have seized the capital Sana'a and are now fighting for Aden, the last Yemeni city under president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's control.

A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ministry said plans were underway to evacuate Kenyan nationals along the coastal cities of the Arabian Peninsula.

Speaking to The EastAfrican, Edwin Limo, who is the spokesperson at the ministry, said about 500 Kenyans are stranded in Yemen and 150 are in the Sanaa region, which is in the hinterland and cannot be accessed via sea.

The ministry says arrangements to evacuate them by chartered flights are being “worked out” but a no-fly zone imposed by Saudi Arabia and its allies has forced many foreigners to try and escape to neighbouring countries via roads which are controlled by criminal gangs.

The ministry advised Kenyans who are stranded on the eastern side of Yemen to travel to Oman where they can be evacuated from Muscat, while those who are near the border with Saudi Arabia via Jeddah.


Nairobi has also requested Beijing and New Delhi for help as their navies were able to evacuate hundreds of their nationals and foreigners to safety.

“The Chinese and Indian naval vessels are currently in the region evacuating not only their nationals but also those of friendly countries that have requested them [for help],” read a statement from the ministry.

Those evacuated are transferred to Djibouti from where their respective governments had made arrangements to take them home.

About 60 Kenyans have been moved to Djibouti as government plans to airlift them back home by the end of the week. A chartered plane will go to Jeddah and Muscat to evacuate the Kenyans who made it out of Yemen.

“There will be strict vetting of those nationals coming home for security reasons,” Mr Limo told The EastAfrican on phone. “We will have the immigration department and intelligence officials doing the verification of papers,” he added.

There are fears that the conflict in Yemen will spill over to East Africa and the Horn as weapons and fighters could easily move between the two regions.

According to the latest report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), some 900 refugees arrived in the Horn of Africa in the last ten days. UNHCR says about 317 Yemeni refugees arrived at Obock in Djibouti.

In Somalia's Puntland and Somaliland, there were 582 arrivals, the vast majority Somalis but also Yemenis and a small number of Ethiopian and Djiboutian nationals.

Evacuations efforts by India and China ended last week winning both countries praise from individuals and governments.

India ended its massive evacuation efforts in Yemen, pulling out 5,600 people, including 4,640 Indians and 960 nationals from 41 countries. China evacuated 629 of its citizens and 279 foreign nationals from 15 countries on Chinese vessels which state media said could be considered modern "Noah's Arks."