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DEADLINE EXTENDED: Call for proposals: What war does to Yemeni migration

Deadline extended to 31 October 2023

Deadline extended to 31 October 2023

Yemen has been at war now for nearly nine years. Since then, Yemeni society has been the subject of only a handful of works, compared to the multitude of studies carried out on the Syrian conflict and forced displacement. Several factors can help explain this: geographical and cultural remoteness, the impossibility for Yemenis to reach Fortress Europe and the difficulties of access to Yemeni territory, reinforced by the blockade imposed by the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Faced with the impossibility of conducting on-site surveys, Humanities and Social Science researchers seem to have opted for two distinct solutions to pursue a production of knowledge on the country. The first is through geopolitical and strategic studies and, more generally, International Relations. This involves analyzing Yemen's civil war through the prism of political forces and alliances in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea regions (Bonnefoy, 2017; Lackner, 2017, 2022; Amelot 2022). The second path explored by researchers has been to invest or reinvest the field of migration studies, questioning the continuities and changes in Yemeni migration movements in times of war (Poirier, 2020, 2022a, 2022b; Sharqawi, 2020; Lauret, 2020; Al-Hadheri & Pernot, 2022; Al Majali, 2022).

Our call for papers on Yemeni migration aims to explore this question. Since the beginning of the 20th century, communities of Yemeni workers have flourished according to commercial opportunities, first in Yemen's neighboring States, along the Red Sea and Indian Ocean coastlines (Bezabeh, 2016; Pétriat, 2016), then further and further away, as far as England or North America (Jolly, 2021). Yemen's social and political history has led more and more Yemenis to join the diaspora, which forms a central player in the life of the country, particularly on the economic front thanks to the migratory remittances that support many families. Already before 2015, migratory movements and the Yemeni diaspora have thus been the subject of numerous works, even constituting real fields, such as Hadrami studies. The circulation of Hadramaout merchants is long-standing (Ho, 2006 traces its history back to the 16th century) and extensive: to Saudi Arabia (Pétriat, 2016), East Africa (Pandya, 2014; Bezabeh, 2016), but also to South-East Asia (Manger, 1993; Freitag et al, 1997; Ho, 2006) and, more recently, the UK (Halliday, 1992; Seddon, 2006) or the USA (Friedlander, 1988; Sarroub, 2005).

Yet the image of the Yemeni traveller needs to be challenged (Bezabeh, 2016), especially since the war. While 4 million people are said to be internally displaced, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), only 60,000 Yemenis are registered as asylum seekers or are recognized as refugees abroad, according to the same sources, mainly in neighboring countries such as Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan and, a little further afield, Malaysia. Despite the deteriorating security, economic, social and health situation in Yemen, why have so few Yemenis left the country? First of all, the difficulties in fleeing Yemen can be explained by social, economic and political inequalities, which deprive a large part of the population of the possibility of moving freely beyond national borders. Indeed, from 2015 onwards, international air traffic gradually came to a halt due to the blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition and the UN inspection mechanisms set up in accordance with resolution 2216 (2015) pronounced in response to Houthi military operations. Soon, the local carrier was operating on its own with an air fleet of four civilian aircrafts, providing connections at irregular frequency and only from the airports of Aden or Seiyun, to regional destinations, in particular Cairo, Amman and Khartoum. Sanaa airport only reopened to commercial aircrafts in April 2022, following the signing of a truce. In this context, only Yemenis with substantial financial and social resources, particularly within transnational networks, have been able to leave the country, with medical, academic or professional visas. Access to countries in the region (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey) was severely restricted, however, for fear of an influx of people fleeing the war. These restrictions were tightened in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and also led to thousands of Yemeni immigrants finding themselves pending (‘alaqin), unable to return to Yemen.

With the majority of Yemenis unable to obtain travel documents, it was by taking to sea, often illegally, towards the Republic of Djibouti, located 30 km off the Yemeni coast, that some 11,153 Yemenis fled the coalition bombardments and the economic and social crisis caused by the war between 2015 and 2019. Djibouti is the only country in the region that offers prima facie refugee status to Yemenis. However, exile to Djibouti offers limited opportunities. The difficult living conditions within the Markazi refugee camp in Obock, located in the middle of an arid plateau on the outskirts of a marginalized town in the north of the country (Lauret, 2023), the refusal of the social downgrading or dishonor that living under refugee status would represent, and economic dependence on humanitarian organizations or international donor aid programs, have pushed a large majority of Yemenis who have arrived since 2015 to attempt to continue their journey to a third country or to prefer a return to Yemen (Lauret, 2023 ; Peutz, 2019; Al-Hadheri & Pernot, 2022). Nevertheless, some remain, particularly those who belong to socio-economically marginalized populations in Yemen due to ethnic cleavages (Peutz, 2019) and for whom migration has already been an escape route from racial discrimination for several decades (Al-Majali, 2022).

Other countries, such as Egypt, Jordan and Malaysia, have delegated asylum procedures to the UNHCR. The UN department grants or refuses refugee status to Yemeni asylum seekers through a lengthy and tedious process known as the Determination of Refugee Status (DSR), interspersed with several interviews and multiple administrative delays. As a result, the new geography of asylum for Yemenis reveals inequalities in mobility and access to contrasting legal statuses and social, financial or political capital (Poirier, 2020, 2022; Aljabzi, 2022; Pernot, 2022), depending in particular on the reception prospects of the countries of arrival.

At the heart of the migration process, the network logic could explain why Yemenis with economic and social resources, such as family ties abroad, were able to easily implement strategies and overcome the difficulties associated with crossing borders and settling, under a status linked to family reunification, work, study or even healthcare (Kubati, 2021). Indeed, many Yemenis have family members abroad. We can also hypothesize that a large proportion of would-be migrants, especially young men, had already left the country before 2015 and the start of the war. They were therefore able to apply for asylum a posteriori. The conflict has, however, led to a diversification of migrant profiles, with whole families migrating when they have the opportunity to do so, including women, children and the elderly, who were once largely a minority in migratory movements (Pernot, 2022, 2023). This calls into question the nature of migration, which has gone from being professional and temporary to becoming family-based and more lasting (Sayad, 2006), as well as the maintenance of links with the home country.

Like many migrants, Yemenis fleeing war are often prey to the illusion of the temporary (Sayad, 2006), living in expectation and the constant prospect of return. But war is often prolonged, and with it, migration. As the years go by and children are born, a new generation is established, and the question of maintaining ties with the country of origin becomes central (Pernot, 2022, 2023). While movement between the countries of immigration and Yemen is frequent, permanent returns are rarer. Return, which is almost forgotten in migration studies, raises a number of issues (Colton, 1993; Camelin el al., 2002). First and foremost, it can be an admission of failure of the migration project, particularly in financial terms, perceived by family and friends as shameful. Even when it is imagined as a remedy for homesickness and nostalgia, recurring themes in folk poems and songs, it is accompanied by an element of the unknown (Schütz, 2017) and can even prove as abrupt and disappointing as migration itself. Indeed, while one can return in space, one cannot return in time, and migrants, while familiar with the society they leave behind, often find themselves in a different society, in which they have lost their bearings. Moreover, they face the risk of exclusion by those who consider that their prolonged absence prevents them from claiming their Yemeni identity (de Regt, Aljaedy, 2022).

From these reflections emerge a range of questions that could be articulated around the following three axes:

Axis 1. (Im)mobilities: the successes and failures of border-crossing strategies

With Yemen's border closure as a result of the war and the blockade, multiple questions arise. What are the socio-economic factors that drive Yemenis into exile? What has the war changed in terms of movement and settlement, particularly for the younger generation? What are the effects of age, gender, class, and geographic and ethnic origins on border-crossing possibilities? What resources do transnational networks offer migrants?

Axis 2. Communities: recomposition and creation of social groups in migration

The arrival of immigrants from Yemen in countries with long-standing Yemeni communities raises a number of questions. How is the war also transforming diaspora communities? Do the socio-economic profiles of Yemenis migrating since 2015 differ from those of their previously settled compatriots)? How do these new migrants relate to diaspora communities? Do they form networks or migratory chains? Are certain groups excluded, and if so, on which grounds?

Axis 3. Links to Yemen: considering the role of the diaspora and transnational networks in the life of the country.

As the Yemeni diaspora expands, it plays an increasing role in the country's political and economic life (Mermier, 2018). How is the Yemeni diaspora reorganizing itself, and what role does the ideological and partisan divide play in the recomposition of the Yemeni community abroad? What political relations does it maintain with the political powers in place in the various regions of Yemen? What is its economic and humanitarian contribution to the population inside Yemen? How is the war reconfiguring the traditional system of remittances from members of Yemeni communities abroad to their country of origin?

Axis 4. "Offshore" Yemeni studies? Yemen's inaccessibility in wartime.

Facing the impossibility for foreign researchers to visit the country, and for Yemenis to carry out fieldwork without risk, are we not forced to work on Yemeni mobilities "for want of anything better"? What transformations and methodological constraints does war imply? Finally, what can we learn about Yemen from fieldwork with Yemeni diaspora members?

To submit a contribution:

This call for contributions is open to researchers in the Humanities and Social Sciences fields, from Masters level upwards, working on Yemen and its migratory movements, for the publication of scientific articles, but also to people who have experienced a migratory journey from Yemen who would like to publish a testimonial in the "Notes and documents" section. The "Lectures" section is dedicated to book reviews, preferably related to the theme of the issue.

To propose a contribution, please send us a document in French, English or Arabic, including a title, a 500-word summary, a few bibliographical indications and a short biography of the author, by October 15, 2023, to Proposals will then be examined by the editorial committee, who will reply in early December.

The team coordinating the thematic issue:

Solenn Al Majali (

Morgann Barbara Ali Pernot (

Mustafa AlJabzi (

Alexandre Lauret (

[1] HCR, “Refugee Data Finder”. URL : [consulté le 27 mars 2023].

[2] “Djibouti Fact Sheet,” UNHCR, Janvier 2019, Djibouti Fact Sheet – January 2019.pdf

[3] The granting of refugee status by the prima facie procedure, which means "at first sight" in Latin, is carried out collectively, without the need to justify any form of political, ethnic, social or sexual persecution, or the impossibility of returning to the country of origin. As a result, a national or ethnic group can be collectively recognized as "refugees" on the basis of the widely known geopolitical situation in the country of departure.


Al Majali, S. (2022), “A Precarious Refuge: Yemeni Asylum Seekers in Jordan”, Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies.

Al-Hadheri, S. & Pernot M. B. (2022), “The Evolution of Yemeni Migration to Djibouti”, Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies.

Al-Jabali, Ahmed Saleh Al-Saidi, Ahmed Qaid, Saif, Ahmed Abdo Saif (et al.) (2023), The mutual effects of Yemeni immigration [al-ʾāṯār al-mutbādlah llhiǧrah al-īamanīh], Al-Khair Foundation for Social Development, Sana'a, 2023.

Al-Shaibani, Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab (2023), Migration and emigrants in contemporary Yemeni literature [al-hiǧra wālmuhāǧirūn fī adab al-īaman al-muʿāṣir], Dar Mawedat, Sanaa, 2023.

AlJabzi, Mustafa (2022), “Exile and Political Mobilization of Yemenis in Istanbul”. Communication présentée lors du colloque “Political Exile and Arab Migration in Turkey : Activism, Mobilizations and Impacts on the Host Country” organisé par l’Institut français des études anatoliennes, Mesopolhis et Galatasaray University Consortium, les 3 et 4 novembre 2022, Istanbul, Turquie.

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Camelin, S. et al. (2002), « Du Hadramaout aux Comores et retour » [« From Hadramaout to the Comoros and back »]. Journal des africanistes, 72, 2. pp. 123-137.

de Regt, M., Aljaedy, () A. “Muwalladeen in Yemen: Racialization, Stigmatization and Discrimination in Times of War”. Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies.

Freitag, U., Clarence-Smith, W. G. (dir.) (1997). Hadrami Traders, Scholars, and Statesmen in the Indian Ocean, 1750s-1960s. New York : Brill.

Friedlander, J. (dir.) (1988), Sojourners and Settlers: The Yemeni Immigrant Experience. An introduction. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.

Hall, B. (2021), “Yemeni Freedom and Mobility Dreams”, MERIP.

Halliday, F. (1992), Arabs in Exile: Yemeni Migrants in Urban Britain. Londres : I. B. Tauris.

Jolly, L. (2021), « Race, nationalité et travail en Côte Française des Somalis (1896-1952) ». [« Race, nationality and work in the French Somali Coast (1896-1952) »] Outre-Mers, Vol, n°410/411, pp.205-227.

Kubati, M. (2021), “Voting Behavior of Yemeni Students in Istanbul: Influential Factors and Tendencies” in Mermier, Franck (dir.) Les présences arabes contemporaines à Istanbul. Istanbul : Institut français d’études anatoliennes.

Lackner, H. (2022), Yemen: Poverty and Conflict. Londres : Routledge.

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Lauret, A. (2020), « Du réfugié yéménite à l’entrepreneur. Quand l’exil de guerre devient opportunité économique à Djibouti » [« From Yemeni refugee to entrepreneur. When war exile becomes business opportunity in Djibouti »], Politique africaine, n°159, pp. 145-168.

Lauret, A. (2023), La guerre et l’exil : Yémen 2015 - 2020. [War and Exile. Yémen 2015 – 2020] Paris : Les Belles Lettres, Coll. Mémoires de guerre.

Lavergne M. (2022), « Émirats arabes unis : du golfe à la mer Rouge, entre nouveaux défis et nouvelles menaces » [« United Arab Emirates: from the Gulf to the Red Sea, between new challenges and new threats »], in Lavergne M., La mer Rouge : convoitises et rivalités sur un espace stratégique. Paris : L’Harmattan.

Manger, L. (1993), The Hadhramaut Diaspora. Community Building on the Indian Ocean Rim. New York: Berghahn Books.

Mermier, F. (dir.) (2018), Yémen. Écrire la guerre [Yemen. Writing war]. Paris : Classiques Garnier.

Pandya, S. (2014), “Yemenis and Muwalladīn in Addis Ababa: Blood Purity and the Opportunities of hybridity”, Journal of Arabian Studies, 4,1, pp. 96-114.

Pernot M. (2023), “Au long des parcours migratoires, jouer avec les statuts juridiques, recomposer les identités », [« Au long des parcours migratoires, jouer avec les statuts juridiques, recomposer les identités »], Enfances Familles Générations [En ligne], 41.

Pernot, M. (2023), "Women Border Guards Coping with Migration: The Case of Yemeni Women in Djibouti" in Freedman, Jane et al. (dir.) The Gender of Borders. Embodied Narratives of Migration, Violence and Agency. Londres : Routledge.

Pétriat, P. (2016). Le Négoce des Lieux saints : Négociants hadramis de Djedda, 1850-1950 [Trading in the Holy Places: Hadrami traders in Jeddah, 1850-1950.]. Nouvelle édition. Paris : Éditions de la Sorbonne.

Peutz, N. (2019), « “The Fault of Our Grandfathers”: Yemen’s Third Generation Migrants Seeking Refuge from Displacement », Middle Eastern Studies, 51, p. 357-376.

Poirier, M. (2022b), "Faire revivre le parlement dans le Yémen en guerre. Conflits de légitimité et luttes pour le monopole de la représentation", Mondes arabes, (n° 2), pp. 21-45.

Poirier, M. (2022a), "Politics despite the war: Yemeni political elites in Cairo", Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies.

Poirier, M. (2020), « Les charmes du cheikh. Construire et défendre sa notabilité au Yémen (2009-2019) » [« The charms of the sheikh. Building and defending notability in Yemen (2009-2019) »], Critique Internationale, n°87, pp. 175-198.

Sarroub, L. (2005), All American Yemeni Girls. Being Muslim in a Public School. Philadelphie : University of Pennsylvania Press.

Sayad, A. (2006). L’immigration ou les paradoxes de l’altérité. 1. L’illusion du provisoire. [Immigration or the paradoxes of otherness. 1. The illusion of the temporary.] Paris : Raisons d’agir.

Schütz, A. (2017), L’homme qui rentre au pays. [The homecoming man] Paris : Allia.

Seddon, M. S. (2014), The Last of the Lascars: Yemeni Muslims in Britain 1836-2012. Leiecestershire : Kube Publishing.

Saying and making community in diaspora: the case of Yemeni immigration to England (1950-2015)., Sharqawi, M. (2020), Dire et faire communauté en diaspora : le cas de l'immigration yéménite en Angleterre (1950-2015) [Saying and making community in diaspora: the case of Yemeni immigration to England (1950-2015).]. Thèse de sociologie sous la direction de Blandine Destremau, soutenue à l’EHESS, Paris.

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