Govt Sends Help for More Than 4000 Indonesians Trapped in Yemen
Jakarta. The government will send more officials to help evacuate the more than 4,000 Indonesians residing in Yemen as Saudi-led forces continue to launch attacks against Shiite rebels in the gulf state.
According to Vice President Jusuf Kalla, the evacuation of 4,159 Indonesians trapped in Yemen has been slow because Indonesia’s embassy in the capital city Sanaa is only staffed by three people at the moment.
“Our embassy [in Yemen] is very small. There are only three diplomats. So we are sending more people from Jakarta to assist these three so all 4,000 Indonesians there can be evacuated,” Kalla said on Tuesday.
The vice president said the government was concerned about the ongoing offensive launched by the Saudi-led forces.
Although claiming that the majority of Indonesians living in Yemen are outside the conflict areas, violence could spread as the Houthi rebels are pushed back.
Kalla said the government was looking to evacuate Indonesians via neighboring countries Oman and Saudi Arabia by land or sea.
Arrmanatha Nasir, a spokesman for the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, said the ministry was also looking to evacuate citizens by air, but this process would require clearance from the Saudi-led forces.
“We will evacuate our citizens out of Yemen as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible. We will focus on evacuating them to the nearest safe territory such as Salalah, Oman, or Jizan, Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The Indonesian Air Force has readied a Boeing 737 jet to expedite the evacuation process, but as Yemen’s airspace is crowded by the Saudi-led forces’ warplanes and ground-to-air missiles, the plan is risky.
“We have communicated [with the Arab League] that there are plans by the [Indonesian] Air Force to evacuate our citizens. We don’t want [the evacuation team] to fall victim to a shoot-out,” he said.
The government has evacuated at least 360 people since the conflict escalated last week. The latest to be evacuated was a group of 190 people who were transported by land from Sanaa to Al Hudaydah near the country’s border with Saudi on Tuesday.
The ministry said there were already 30 Indonesians who have been evacuated to the border town.
“Our first priority is to get Indonesians out of the conflict zone. From there we will get them out of Yemen. Then, we will find ways for them to return to Indonesia,” he said.
The government has brought home 141 Indonesians using commercial flights since February, when Yemen’s security situation began to rapidly deteriorate.
The National Police is also sending seven officers to assist the evacuation process. The officers, five male and two females, are scheduled to be deployedon Wednesday, National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Agus Rianto said.
“They will be on duty for about two weeks but it all depends on the situation,” he said.
Arrmanatha said the officers will manage all the security details of the evacuation as well as several safe houses in Yemen.
Indonesians in the country were told to convene at these houses, after which officers will find the best means to transport them out of the country.
“The evacuation team will travel back and forth to pick up Indonesians and get them out of Yemen,” he said.
The safe houses are mainly in Sanaa, where most Indonesians are residing, between three to four hours’ drive from the border with Saudi Arabia.
The Foreign Ministry’s director of consular and legal affairs, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, said officials were confident that they would be able to evacuate all Indonesian citizens safely.
“The relationships between Indonesia and all factions in Yemen are good, so we have safe passage [for the evacuation],” he said.
The Indonesian government has also successfully lobbied for the release 24 Indonesians detained by Yemeni officials over immigration issues, Iqbal said.
“They have all been released now,” he said on Tuesday.
The 24 were earlier arrested for overstaying or violating the terms of visas.
Iqbal said the 24 were students who, since the security conditions worsened, have been struggling to get their visas extended.
The students were then forced to live from one mosque to the next to avoid being arrested by immigration officials.
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