Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The following photographs are of Somali refugees in Yemen. I worked with Abigail Hauslohner on a story about the refugees in Yemen's port city Aden. published a video, Yemen a Dead End for Somali Refugees, and a print story. Check it out!

Although Somali refugee camps are scattered throughout the South, the only place we could easily access was just outside Aden in the slum of Bassatine, which has become a permanent settlement of African migrants over the past decade or two.

We visited one of the community leaders who had taken in 22 refugees, mostly widows, who had no place else to go. Above, one of the shacks shared by 8 women in Jilani Ali Maalim's compound. The women must beg to earn money.

Roughly 16,000 Somalis live in Bassatine, and 150,000 Somali refugees in Yemen are registered with the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR). In Yemen, the Arab Peninsula's poorest nation, where half the population lives in abject poverty, the government is ill-equipped to deal with the recent increase in Somali refugees.

How terrible must life be to flee to Yemen, where there is no safety net, no work prospects and virtually no government?

Desperation incarnate: Baby Layla's mom swam several kilometers, eight months pregnant, to reach the shore of Yemen. Her smugglers tossed her from the boat within sight of the coast.

Drownings are common in the passage. Sofia Abdel Samat's 6-year-old sister died during the journey from their homeland a month ago.

One of the lovely things about working on this story is that the women didn't mind having their photographs taken. I guess I have gotten pretty used to places where photographing women is haram (a sin). Yemen is probably one of the most conservative places on earth and no exception to this. So this story, despite the difficult subject matter, was a breath of fresh air for me.

Jamila, 13.

Abdullah and his 6-month-old daughter Kamer. He said his wife abandoned them recently for Saudi Arabia. "She was crying everyday," Abdullah said of his wife's unhappiness in Yemen, a gateway to richer Arab nations.

Sofia makes lunch for the refugees in Maalim's compound.

The last one from the Maalim compound.

Bassatine's main street.

A refugee, with the image of a boat behind him.

The tailor.

Hassan, the butcher.

A remembrance of home in a cafe.


Toaf said...

Beautiful images that bring these sad, distant stories closer. Thank you.

Ashley said...

Powerful photos. Really impressed.

Holly said...

Thank you both.