Govt Steps up Repatriation of Indonesians Caught in Yemen Conflict


MARCH 30, 2015

[Updated at 9:25 p.m. on Monday, March 30, 2015, to add background and further comment]

Jakarta. The government has stepped up efforts to repatriate the thousands of Indonesians living in Yemen after Iranian-backed Houthi fighters forced President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile last week and plunged the country into civil war.

The government has brought home 141 Indonesians since February, when Yemen’s security situation started to rapidly deteriorate. 

A further 21 Indonesians, who are currently taking refuge at an immigration office, are due to fly home soon, assured Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir.

“We will try our best to evacuate the remaining Indonesians [in Yemen],” Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Tedjo Edhi Purdijanto said on Monday. 

“We have made it a priority to get them out of the country.”

A Saudi Arabia-led coalition last week launched a major bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Aden, a seaport city along the Red Sea in which Hadi took refuge after his government was toppled in the capital of Sanaa in February. 

Clashes between Houthi soldiers and supporters of President Hadi’s administration continued in the northeastern suburbs of Aden on Monday.

Meanwhile, Saudi-led warplanes struck the capital throughout Sunday evening and Monday morning, targeting the presidential palace and the city’s weapons depot near Nugum mountain.

Houthi officials claimed the air strike left 35 people dead and 88 wounded.

Iran has so far denied supporting the rebel group.

Some 4,100 Indonesians currently live in Yemen. More than 2,500 are high school or university students, while 1,488 are migrant workers, according to data from the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

So far only 141 citizens have returned from the war-torn nation, the ministry said.

A coalition of Saudi Arabia and nine other Gulf countries began carrying out military operations against Shiite Houthi militias last Thursday.

Citing Yemen’s proximity to Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia, Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin expressed his concerns over the ongoing conflict’s impact on the annual hajj pilgrimage and hopes “the struggle will be settled immediately.”

“Whatever is the reason, war claims lives,” Lukman said. 

“Indonesia will monitor the developments [in Yemen] with the hope that the conflict will not escalate further.”