In 2021, DTM estimates that 27,693 migrants entered Yemen, a 26 per cent drop compared to 37,484 migrant arrivals in 2020. However, almost 75 per cent of migrants who arrived in 2020 came in the first three months of the year, before strict COVID-19 measures came into force. DTM estimates that 138,213 migrants arrived in (pre-pandemic) 2019 alone.
Whilst flows have reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, intensified barriers to movements brought on by the pandemic and the reinforcement of movement reducing policies have left thousands of migrants stranded across Yemen with limited options for safe movement and the risk of forcible transfer across frontlines. Reduced migrant arrivals throughout the years, as a consequence to the pandemic and increased controls along the KSA border, has resulted in smugglers adopting increasingly inhumane methods to ensure profit and maintain their networks. IOM estimates that nearly 35,000 migrants are stranded throughout the country, grappling with dire condition and vulnerable to experiencing grave abuse.
During the first quarter of 2021, flow volumes significantly dropped compared to the same period in pre-pandemic years. Between January and March 2021, DTM recorded 5,114 migrants arriving in Yemen, compared with 27,948 in the same period in 2020, and 37,109 in 2019.
During the second quarter of 2021, the number of migrant arrivals in Yemen remained low, relatively similar to the same period during 2020, when COVID-19 related movement restrictions first took effect. DTM recorded 4,876 migrants arriving in Yemen between April and June 2021, compared to 3,669 migrants in the same months of 2020- a significant drop compared to the same period in (pre-pandemic) 2019 when 47,269 migrant arrivals were recorded.
In pre-pandemic years, the third quarter usually witnesses a decreasing trend in migrant arrivals into Yemen because of the unfavorable seasonal and tidal changes. In 2019, between July and September, 23,403 migrants arrived in Yemen, the lowest number recorded in a single quarter that year. Even in 2020, when migrant flows significantly plummeted due to COVID-19 mobility restrictions, the third quarter continued to receive the lowest number of migrant arrivals.
Despite the harsh weather and rising tides, the number of migrant arrivals increased in the third quarter of 2021. DTM recorded 6,091 migrant arrivals, showing a slight rise from preceding quarters and a significant upsurge from the same period in 2020 when 1,505 migrants arrived. This increase is most likely due to the loosening of COVID-19 related mobility restrictions.
The rising trend of migrant flows continued in the fourth quarter of 2021 and is most likely linked to improved weather conditions and the easing of COVID-19 related mobility restrictions. According to anecdotal evidence, the rise was also heavily influenced by the worsening security situation in Ethiopia, with the recently imposed mandatory enlistment in the military service, along with the deteriorating economic conditions in Somalia. Between October and December 2021, IOM tracked 11,612 migrants arriving in Yemen, marking the highest number recorded in a single quarter in 2021. This represents an increase compared to the same period in 2020 when 4,413 migrants arrived, yet a decrease from (pre-pandemic) 2019 when 30,432 migrants arrived.
 See related “Impact of COVID-19 on Migrants and Refugees in the Arab Region” by ESCWA, UNHCR, ILO, 2020. And “How covid-19 restrictions and the economic consequences are likely to impact migrant smuggling and cross-border trafficking in persons to Europe and North America” by UNDOC, 2020