Indonesia calls for 'humanitarian pause' in Yemen

Indonesia calls for 'humanitarian pause' in Yemen
Home safe: Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi welcomes Indonesian citizens arriving at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, from Yemen on Sunday.

JAKARTA - The government has appealed for a temporary halt to hostilities in Yemen to allow the evacuation of Indonesians still stranded in the country's inflamed cities.

The Foreign Ministry has recorded that there are currently a number of Indonesians - 89 in Aden, 14 in Sanaa, 40 in Al Mukalla and 58 in Tareem - sheltering in safe houses waiting to be sent home.

Street battles in Aden between Houthi rebels and forces loyal to President Abed Rabboh Mansour Hadi stymied an effort to pick up the 89 there.

"The humanitarian pause will give a chance for the Indonesian government to evacuate its citizens as soon as possible from Yemen," Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said on Sunday.

The ministry has deployed staff members from the Indonesian Embassy in Muscat, Oman, to remain on standby in the city of Salalah, which borders Yemen.

Staff members of the Indonesian Embassy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, are now in Jizan, a port city in the southwest corner of Saudi Arabia, which also borders Yemen.

The government has sent a further two teams comprising officials and personnel from the Foreign Ministry, the National Police and the Indonesian Air Force to accelerate the operation.

Since efforts began in December, 792 Indonesians have been evacuated from Yemen, 590 of whom have returned to Indonesia.

Retno welcomed on Sunday a group of 110 Indonesians included in the latest batch of evacuees, who left Yemen through Jizan.

According to the ministry, fighting has worsened in Aden and Sanaa, making it difficult to continue the evacuation process.

Hari Nasution, 25, a student at Darul U'lum As-Syari'ah University in the western province of al-Hudaidah, was among those who landed in Jakarta on Sunday.

Hari said that some of his fellow Indonesian students had remained in Yemen out of fear that they will not have enough money to return once the fighting is over.

"Six others from my university remain there for financial reasons. They expect the situation to get better," said the Medan native.

He added that he was first advised to evacuate by the university rector after a rocket hit an area near the university on March 31, when students were preparing for exams the next day.

Hari said he would return to Yemen once the situation had cooled.

The most recent group of evacuees gathered in al-Hudaidah before traveling overland to Jizan, from where an Indonesian Air Force aircraft took them to Muscat. They returned to Jakarta on commercial flights.

Retno, meanwhile, said she could do no more than encourage Indonesians to leave Yemen, including by asking university rectors to advise their Indonesian students to return temporarily to their home country.

"We cannot force those who choose to stay to go home," she added.

According to data from the ministry, there are 4,159 Indonesians living in Yemen, including 2,626 students at Yemeni schools and universities.

Workers in the oil and gas industry account for 1,488 of the total, while the rest are embassy staff and their families.

On Saturday, a ship rented by the Indonesian Embassy in Addis Ababa was forced to leave Aden without the 89 Indonesians sheltering in the city that it had been sent to rescue.

The ship did evacuate another 11 Indonesians, 10 Britons, four Yemenis and three Sri Lankans.

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