Coast Guard spokesperson Major Hussein Al-Harazi confirmed the arrest and said the 44 Ethiopians were taken to Mocha Security Department.
Colonel Saleh Alfani, the director of operations for the Coast Guard, told the Yemen Times that the 44 Ethiopians were arrested near the port of Mocha on a boat captained by an Ethiopian national. He added that Ethiopians are generally not treated as refugees in Yemen as there is no major conflict in Ethiopia.
“The Ethiopians have left their country and headed to Yemen for two reasons… they intend to secure jobs in Yemen or use Yemen to transit to other Gulf countries,” said Alfani.
Zaid Al-Alaya'a, a media assistant at the UN Refugee Agency, told the Yemen Times that all the arrested Ethiopians are economic migrants and therefore not asylum seekers, adding that they are not seeking refugee status. Ethiopian migrants do not generally qualify for refugee status, unlike Somalis who are automatically granted such status on arrival.
Abdulla Al-Zurqa, the deportation manager at the Passport and Immigration Authority in Sana’a, said that as long as the Ethiopians are not refugees and are not in the process of seeking asylum, they will be deported.
Yemen is the only country in the Arabian Peninsula that is a signatory to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, which determines who qualifies as a refugee, the rights of those granted asylum, and the legal obligations of states towards refugees.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, between January and November of 2013, 53,941 Ethiopian migrants arrived in Yemen. In 2012 that figure stood at 84,376, while for the previous two years the numbers were 75,561 and 34,422 respectively.