Indonesians stranded as Yemen heats up

Indonesians stranded as Yemen heats up

As the battle on Yemen's streets intensifies, the Indonesian government is struggling to evacuate hundreds of Indonesians residing in the country.

Houthi rebels are engaged in intense street battles with forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Yemen's southern port city of Aden.

The fighting on Saturday forced a ship rented by the Indonesian Embassy in Addis Ababa to flee the port of Aden without the 90 Indonesians sheltering in the city that it had been sent to rescue.

"The ship was waiting for around 90 Indonesians who had taken shelter in Aden's refugee camp. But those Indonesian nationals could not get to the port because of the battles around the port, which forced the ship to leave immediately," Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

The ship did evacuate 11 Indonesians, 10 Britons, four Yemenis and three Sri Lankans, according to the embassy on Twitter, and had safely arrived in Djibouti.

"The ship from Aden has arrived in Djibouti," Arrmanatha said.

The government would send the ship back to Aden to pick up the remaining stranded Indonesians, he added.

The evacuation has been plagued with difficulties, as an Indonesian Air Force aircraft sent to airlift the Indonesian nationals failed to reach the troubled nation.

Arrmanatha said that the plane was forced to land in the neighbouring country of Oman after the crew was warned of the volatility and unpredictability of the clashes between Houthi fighters and Saudi-backed soldiers.

"The security conditions in Yemen are still dynamic and unpredictable. The evacuation team is forced to keep adapting to the process and the scenario," he said.

On Thursday, the government dispatched two teams to Yemen to speed up the evacuation, comprising personnel from the Foreign Ministry, the National Police, the Indonesian Air Force and other relevant institutions.

One team entered Yemen from the east and is currently at Tarim, a historic town in the Hadhramaut region.

"Today they are meeting with Indonesians there to convince them to be evacuated," Arrmanatha said.

The team would proceed to other cities in the Hadhramaut region of south Yemen, he said.

"They will meet Indonesians who are ready to be evacuated while deciding the fastest and safest evacuation method," said Arrmanatha.

Yemen is popular among Indonesians pursuing Islamic studies. Some students have refused to return to Indonesia despite the situation in Yemen.

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi earlier said that there were some 4,159 Indonesian citizens in Yemen, including 2,626 students, 1,488 employees of oil and gas companies and 45 embassy staff and their families in Sana'a.

As of Saturday, only 752 people had been evacuated, according to the ministry.

Of that number, 332 had fled by the end of December, while 148 were evacuated between the call for evacuation on Feb. 6 and March 22.

A further 262 were evacuated after the government intensified the evacuation on March 25, while the last 10 were removed from Aden on Friday.

"Of the 262 people, 110 will be picked up by the Indonesian Air Force aircraft to be taken from Jizan, a port city in Saudi Arabia, to Muscat, Oman," said Arrmanatha. "They will be flown to Indonesia later tonight."

Among these 262 Indonesians are 21 detained by Yemeni officials for problems relating to immigration and residency permits.

"They have been freed and now are in the group of 262 people," Arrmanatha said.

Separately, National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said police officers dispatched to help the foreign ministry had yet to arrive in Yemen.

"They are still traveling from Jeddah to Yemen," he said, referring to a city in Saudi Arabia.

"The journey will take a while because the distance is more than 700 kilometers."

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