By Alexander Weissenburger (ISA)
While the civil war in Syria has received ample coverage in Western media, this is far less true for the ongoing conflict in Yemen. Without perceptible repercussions to the Western world, there is little interest in the fallout of this conflict of close to fifteen years. It entails no terrorist threat to European capitals and, due to Yemen’s remoteness, hardly a refugee reaches Europe. Yet, far away from the glare of Western cameras, Yemen has to deal with its own displaced population, and, moreover, remains a hub for regional migration from the Horn of Africa.
Yemen and the Horn of Africa
In 1980 the Yemen Arab Republic became - and remains to this day - the only country on the Arabian Peninsula to sign the 1951 Refugee Convention as well as the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1967. However, already before the 1980s, Yemen accepted refugees from the Horn of Africa. While the first group of new arrivals fled the Eritrean War of Independence from the 1960s onwards, later refugees came primarily from Somalia. In 2002, the UNHCR registered over 70,000 refugees in Yemen, 92% of whom originated from Somalia. Estimates, however, suggest that the actual number of migrants in Yemen far exceeded 300,000. By 2013, the Yemeni Transitional Government reckoned the number of refugees to be between 600,000 and 800,000. These large numbers of migrants, including refugees as well as asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, led to revisions in Yemen’s previously rather liberal migration policies. At the same time, the so-called “War on Terror” caused migrants to be increasingly seen as a security threat.
Nevertheless, migration to Yemen continued unabated. By 2013 Ethiopians constituted the majority of migrants to Yemen and made up 83% of the approximately 120,000 new arrivals of 2016. Migrants pay smugglers several hundred Dollars (between 100 and 500$) to cross the Gulf of Aden and then several hundred more to reach Yemen’s northern border. For another 800$ they are smuggled across the border to Saudi Arabia, which remains the main destination for the migrants. Since 2015, with the current war in Yemen, the way into Saudi Arabia has become more difficult and a new route opened up with migrants crossing the Red Sea in Northern Yemen in order to reach Sudan and from there travel on to Egypt, Libya and, finally, to Europe.
On their way, migrants face horrible conditions. Besides the overall deteriorating situation in war-torn Yemen, migrants are frequently mistreated by their smugglers. Since the trafficking of humans - often alongside the smuggling of weapons and oil - has become such a lucrative business, the smuggling networks have no interest in migrants making the journey on their own. Migrants are therefore often forced to use these networks, in which case they are completely dependent on their smugglers, who frequently abuse their power. Migrants are forced to hand over money, held to ransom, sexually abused and tortured in order to extort money or contact information of relatives, who are then pressured into sending money in exchange of the release of the captive. A Human Rights Watch report states that this happens at a systematic scale with camps in deserted areas run mainly by Yemenis.
Due to the worsening security situation in the country, African migrants as well as Yemenis increasingly leave Yemen. While the African migrants return home, the Yemenis are left with only few options. The countries on the Horn of Africa are not attractive and Arabic countries are hard to reach due to the blockade imposed on Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition. Nevertheless, there are several thousand refugees from Yemen living in countries such as Somalia, Eritrea and Egypt, and, most importantly, Jordan. While the UN has registered 12,500 Yemenis in Jordan, their actual number could easily be twice as much. The number of Yemenis looking for a better life abroad is likely to rise as the situation deteriorates. For the time being, however, their number is easily dwarfed by the three million internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Internal Displacement in Yemen
Internal displacement in the case of Yemen is intrinsically linked to the ongoing crisis. The current conflict in Yemen has its roots in the early 2000s when Husayn al-Huthi, an Islamic scholar and agitator belonging to the Zaydi denomination of Shiite Islam, founded the Huthi movement in the northern province of Sa’da. His Islamist and anti-Western rhetoric put him in conflict with the Yemeni government, which tried to subdue the movement. Between 2004 and 2010 the northern provinces of Yemen saw six rounds of war between the government and the movement. By the end of the last round, 250,000 people had been displaced in the province of Sa’da alone.
In 2011, the Huthis participated in the Arab spring uprising and took part in the transition process after Ali Abdallah Salih had resigned as president. When the new government under President Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi failed to meet the population’s expectations, the Huthis exploited the popular anger and marched south, taking Sanaa in September 2014. President Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi fled first to the southern Yemeni city of Aden and then to Saudi Arabia. In March 2015, the aforementioned coalition under the leadership of Saudi Arabia began to intervene in Yemen, with the declared goal of reinstating President Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi. The coalition keeps bombing Huthi controlled territory, including civilian infrastructure, agricultural areas and cultural heritage sites, while simultaneously preventing humanitarian aid from entering the country by sea and air.
Mainly due to the blockade, Yemen - which has to import around 90% of its main food staples - today faces what the UN calls the world’s greatest current humanitarian catastrophe. 60% of the population are food insecure and 8.4 million people (around 25% of the total population) are at risk of starvation. Besides hunger, diseases and fighting, the population faces corruption and political as well as economic oppression, by all actors in the conflict. With the crisis most severe in the countryside, where what little arrives in terms of humanitarian aid in Yemen is harder to distribute, people flee to the cities and especially the safer regions of the country.
Between 2014 and 2018 the population of the relatively safe province of Marib in central Yemen rose from around 350,000 to more than 1.5 million. The impact is obvious. Hospitals and schools are overwhelmed, as is the housing market. While IDPs are also housed in camps, many are from the middle class and can afford to rent accommodation in the city. This increase in demand severely pushed up rent prices, adding to the strain on the local population. The same problem is seen in the southwestern province of Ibb, where people took refuge from the fighting in the city of Taizz.
With no end of the conflict in sight, the situation of the population is set to deteriorate further in the coming months, with the number of refugees from, as well as within, Yemen likely to rise. It can only be hoped that the increasing public interest in the crisis following in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 puts pressure on the relevant political actors to effect at least the lifting of the blockade in order to alleviate the misery of the Yemeni population.
 Until 1990, Yemen was split into the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) in the north and west of the country and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) in the south and east. After unification, the new state remained subject to all international treaties the former YAR had signed.
 Thiollet, Helene: From Migration Hub to Asylum Crisis: The Changing Dynamics of Contemporary Migration in Yemen, in Why Yemen Matters: A Society in Transition, edited by Helen Lackner, Saqi Books, London 2014, 281.
 Hughes, Nesya H B: Yemen and Refugees: Progressive Attitudes –Policy Voids, Forced Migration Review January 2003, 36-38.
 Thiollet, Helene: From Migration Hub to Asylum Crisis, 280.
 Thiollet, Helene: From Migration Hub to Asylum Crisis, 275-276.
 Tinti, Peter: Migrant Smuggling: Paths from the Horn of Africa to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Africa in the World Report 7, Institute for Security Studies November 2017, 16.
 Abdiker, Mohammed: Yemen: the Deadly Migration Route the World is Ignoring, CNN, 20 June 2018, https://edition.cnn.com/2018/06/20/opinions/yemen-migration-iom/index.html, accessed on 24 October 2018.
 Human Rights Watch: Yemen’s Torture Camps: Abuse of Migrants by Human Traffickers in a Climate of Impunity, 2014, 37-47.
 UNHCR: As Yemen Conditions Deteriorate, Somali Refugees Look to Return Home, 19 May 2017, http://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2017/5/591ea2554/yemen-conditions-deteriorate-somali-refugees-look-return-home.html, accessed on 24 October 2018.
 Luck, Taylor: Yemenis Join the Line of Refugees Seeking Help in Jordan, The National, September 18, 2018, https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/yemenis-join-the-line-of-refugees-seeking-help-in-jordan-1.771577.
 Brandt, Marieke: Tribes and Politics in Yemen, New York, Hurst, 2017, p. 326.
 https://news.un.org/en/focus/yemen, accessed on 15 November 2018.
 Tuzayid Adad al-Najihin ila Madina Ma'rib, al-Jazeera, 13 March 2016,
http://www.aljazeera.net/programs/newsreports/2016/3/19/%D8%AA%D8%B2%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D8%A3%D8%B9%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B2%D8%AD%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A5%D9%84%D9%89-%D9%85%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%86%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%A3%D8%B1%D8%A8, accessed on 24 October 2018; al-Yaman.. al-Nazihun yarfa’a Ijarat al-Sukun 550% bi-l-Manatiq al-Amina, al-Arabi al-Jadid, 3 September 2016, https://www.alaraby.co.uk/economy/2016/9/3/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%B2%D9%88%D8%AD-%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%81%D8%B9-%D8%A5%D9%8A%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%83%D9%86-500-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B7%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A2%D9%85%D9%86%D8%A9, accessed on 24 October 2018.
By Khadija Abbasi & Alessandro Monsutti
Migration of young Afghan to Europe is structured by a moral economy that has a twofold dimension. First, it implies a social system of exchange and redistribution between young migrants and their relatives who stayed behind. It is underpinned by a code of conduct implying mutual obligations and collective responsibilities, by a system of values and solidarity, norms and social obligations that defines their success as migrants. Second, migration is characterized by the high pressure to succeed. Prompted by their quest for autonomy and recognition, the migrants become increasingly aware during their journey that only a few of them will be able to settle down in Europe. The relationships among young candidates to asylum are imbued by competition and jealousy. These young migrants are invested in the double mission of preparing a better future for their family and proving their individual value.
In such a context, many young Afghan migrants share their hopes and frustrations on the cyberspace, across geographical, social and gender boundaries. Migration and the status of forcibly being displaced are recurrent topics and are addressed with ambivalent feelings: suffering and separation, but also opportunity and autonomy. When Afghans talk about their experience of mobility, the term āwāragī is mostly used. It means ‘wandering,’ ‘vagrancy,’ while āwāra refers to a person who is in the state of āwāragī, a wanderer, a vagrant. The semantic field also implies the idea of being separated from one’s homeland and having to change one’s location against one’s own will. Ghorbat is another word recurrently associated with āwāragi. It describes the status of being a stranger and lonely in a place different from one’s homeland. The two terms have negative connotations and are often used interchangeably. Two terms with religious connotation, mohājerat, which means ‘migration,’ and mohājer, which designates a person who has migrated out of his/her home country, are nowadays much less commonly used than among the previous generations of Afghans who took refuge in Pakistan and Iran. An online conversation between various transnational young Afghans may serve as an example:
– Zari, a female Afghan whose application for asylum in Germany is currently under review, writes on her page on Facebook: “āwāragī means to be born in Tehran, to be thrown away to Kabul, and, to stay in Berlin; but nowhere you live the life.”
The post triggered many comments. Zari describes herself as an āwāra who cannot enjoy the journeys imposed on her.
– Shafiqa, newly settled in Australia, reacts: “Stay āwāra as there is death in immobility.”
– Zari: “I feel upset when I remember the reality of being an āwāra.”
– Shafiqa: “āwāragī is in the blood of our generation. Just imagine! In three decades, we have experienced the misfortunes of three centuries. Despites this, we still should stay alive.”
– Zari: “In these three decades, three generations became āwāra and the fourth generation is on the way but without home, in suspension, and with no identity.”
– Suraya, based in the United States: “Dear Zari, life is not something beyond this. That’s life.”
– Zari: “Our life is an absolute āwāragī.”
– Hashmat intervenes with a free verse: “We should put the framework of our identity under our arm [as a sign of leaving], as the walls of home have rotted and we are still āwāra in the streets that are not going to warm [welcome] us.”
– Zari: “The streets that did not warm us and the rotted walls that could not bear framework of our identity.”
– Hashmat: “And if these rotted walls collapse, thousands and thousands of the lost people will rise from under soil.”
– Kousha, based in India adds: “āwāragī means to be uprooted.”
– Munirah: “I was born in Kabul, granted asylum in Hamburg, but this is just the beginning of my story... Then, I am thrown to Norway – everything had to start from scratch – and then I am thrown to England – everything from scratch again –, then I am thrown to Scotland – everything from scratch again – and maybe soon I’ll be thrown again to another place. Perhaps life is all about this constant uprooting?”
– Sadiq: “We are an āwāra generation.”
– Shafiqa: “The generation of being in continual āwāragī, moving from one ghorbat to another. Even if you are not thrown from one land to another, the fact that your mind is uprooted is enough to prevent you to rest in one place, even in the land that has granted you asylum. There is death in immobility.”
For transnational Afghans who took part in this conversation, the conventional concept of home does not suit their situation with a multi-local sense of belonging and loneliness. They question the notion of home for a generation who grew up and reached adulthood in mobility. They contest the notion of home for people who were born as refugees in the country of asylum. Shafiqa used a Sufi trope to respond to Zari’s complaint of being āwāra: “There is death in immobility.” In so doing, she rationalizes her hyper-mobility. Shafiqa and Zari are amongst the generation who were born refugees to Afghan families in Iran. Zari left Iran for Germany and Shafiqa settled in Australia. Both left Iran to Afghanistan in search of home. Both left Afghanistan disappointed and continued migration in search of a better life where their sufferings and exclusion are recognized. But the streets in Germany, Norway, England, Australia, the United States are not welcoming. There is no apparent end to the wandering life of the āwāra generation; āwāragī is not a transient period of life but becomes an ontological status. These young people inhabit mobility. On the one hand, they feel that their plight is not understood by their relatives left back in Afghanistan or the countries of first asylum, Pakistan and Iran. On the other hand, their everyday life is dominated by competition and suspicion among peers, as only a few of them will be able to get a protection status and settle down in Europe. The cyberspace acquires a crucial importance for them, it is the realm where they can express themselves much more freely than in face-to-face relationships, address their dissatisfaction and magnify their aspirations.
by Marija Cubalevska
After mastering often difficult journeys to their destination, refugees face numerous administrative obstacles as they try to adapt to a new life in a different society. As part of Austria’s language policy, they have to sign an ‘Integrationsvertrag’ or ‘Integrationsvereinbarung’ (=integration contract / integration agreement). This law was issued in 2003 and has since then been amended several times (the last time in 2017). In order to obtain or extend their residency permit, all citizens of third member states who are not part of the EU (including refugees) are obliged to attain a certain level of proficiency in German within a certain period of time and pass classes on Austrian values called ‘Werte- und Orientierungskurse’.
In my research I explore the question of how these legislative measures are presented and legitimized. My focus is on the most important institution in this area, the Österreichischer Integrations Fonds (Austrian Integration Fund for, henceforth ÖIF). ÖIF is responsible for implementing the ‘Integrationsvereinbarung’ and ‘Integrationsvertrag’ i.e. financing and evaluating educational institutions, organizing the classes on values and conducting both language proficiency and value tests.
The measures contained in the ‘Integrationsvereinbarung’ and the ‘Integrationsvertrag’ are presented along (neo-)paternalistic or moralistic lines. Paternalistic lines of argument stress that the measures taken (like the obligation to learn German) are implemented for the migrants’ own good. Neo-paternalism, as defined by Niku Dorostkar (2012, 77ff), is associated with discourses arguing that people should want to learn German on their own accord instead of being forced to acquire it. Rather than through legal measures, the desired effect is to be reached by helping the targeted individuals to take “the right decision”, whereby what is wrong and right has already been defined for them . Stutter/Maasen (2010, 321-333) also describe this phenomenon as “crypto-paternalism”. In this scenario, paternalism takes the form of a top-down prescribed self-help mechanism through which limited autonomy and empowerment can be reached, but only as long as they are used for the “right” cause. This implies that migrants should not only accept the obligation to learn the language; they should also support the measures enthusiastically. In this line of argument, German is often referred to as the language or our language, implying that fruitful communication in Austria cannot occur by means of any other language than German. This moralistic argumentation imagines national communities as culturally singular and homogenous entities. In order to uphold this image, clear boundaries between the own culture and other cultures need to be drawn – any differing cultural expression within one’s own defined boundaries is interpreted as a threat to national identity and unity.
A case in point is the ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party) election program for the national elections of 2017. It cites a study according to which German is not the primary medium for over 25% of students attending Austrian schools. According to the same study, 70% of the students attending middle schools (Haupt- and kooperative Mittelschulen) in Vienna do not use German as their primary language. (Österreichische Volkspartei 2017, 48) The underlying assumption is that people only resort to one language for colloquial speech. Taken at face value, these statements imply that 70% of the kids in Viennese secondary schools only use a single language in their everyday life, and this is not German. They do not admit the possibility of having two or multiple colloquial languages which are used consecutively or even mixed simultaneously.
Perhaps even more problematic than the forced language learning are the courses and tests on values. It is assumed that ‘Austrian values’ are something that people who are born as Austrian citizens automatically share and uphold, while newcomers have to study and adopt them. But what exactly are these values and who defines them? No official definition of ‘Austrian values’ has ever been undertaken, which means that the ÖIF gets to specify them. The brochures entitled ‘My life in Austria – opportunities and rules’ and ‘Rot-weiß-rot-Fibel’ outline the basic principles of parliamentary democracy and secularism. They explain some specific Austrian laws and customs, such as the daily ‘Nachtruhe’ from 22.00 – 06.00. They teach basic principles of human behavior and lawfulness, for instance, that it is illegal to hurt another person physically or to use public transport without buying a ticket. The content of this material says more about ÖIF’s perception of migrants and refugees than it says about Austrian values. Refugees are unequivocally portrayed as primitive and ignorant of basic democratic principles.
According to Krumm (2002), the ‘Integrationsvereinbarung’ has nothing to do with integration, but is simply a euphemism for racist policies. Under the etiquette of ‘integration’ diversity is being suppressed and excluded, elements defined as ‘foreign’ are being silenced and made invisible. Unfortunately, over the years, this tendency has become stronger.
In ÖIF’s publication entitled ‘Perspektiven Integration’ the racist ideology is even more blatantly visible,
‘Migration does not necessarily have to stand in opposition to the social welfare state, but is undoubtedly a big challenge for it. If this societal model is supposed to function in times of impactful migration movements, migrants need to identify and feel connected with Austria, the country in which they live and where a new home is being offered to them.’ [Wolf: 2017; translation by M.C.]
Here, an artificial contrast between participation in the Austrian welfare state and identification with Austria is created. It implies that migrants per se pose a threat to the welfare state and, by extension, a threat to all Austrian citizens. This argumentation obscures the fact that participating in the welfare state (i.e. paying taxes) is not optional but obligatory for everyone working and living in Austria, regardless of their national or cultural identity. These examples demonstrate how culturally racist policy making in Austria is legitimized by construing a homogenous national-cultural identity for Austria and twisting such concepts as integration.
DOROSTKAR, Niku: Linguistischer Paternalismus und Moralismus: Sprachbezogene Argumentationsstrategien im Diskurs über ‘Sprachigkeit. In: Aptum. Zeitschrift für Sprachkritik und Sprachkultur. 8. Jahrgang: 2012, Heft 1, S. 61 – 84.
KRUMM, Hans-Jürgen: One sprachen konten wir uns nicht ferstandigen. Ferstendigung ist wichtig. Entwicklung und Tendenzen in der Sprachlehrforschung im Bereich der Migration und Integration. Vortrag im Rahmen des Symposions “Sprache und Integration” Wien am 22.02. 2002 / Institut für Germanistik / Wien.
STUTTER, Barbara & MAASEN, Sabine: „Bürgergesellschaft“. Der verdeckte Paternalismus eines politischen Programms. In: Bijan Fateh-Moghadam u.a. (Hg.) Grenzen des Paternalismus. Stuttgart : 2010, S. 318-340.
WOLF, Franz: Sozialstaat und Integration. In: Perspektiven Integration 07/2017. Österreichischer Integrationsfonds
Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres (Hg.): My Life in Austria – Opportunities and Rules. Österreichischer Integrationsfonds Lindenau Productions GmbH / Wien: 2013.
Bundesministerium für Inneres (Hg.): Zusammenleben in Österreich (Rot-Weiß-Rot-Fibel) 2013.
Der neue Weg. Aufbruch und Wohlstand. Programm der Österreichischen Volkspartei zu Nationalratswahl 2017.