Yemen: Houthi rebels admit causing fire at migrant detention centre


Yemen’s Houthi rebels acknowledged on Saturday that guards fired three teargas canisters which caused a fire that tore through a detention centre for migrants earlier this month, killing at least 45 people.

The guards fired the teargas into a crowded hangar in the capital, Sana’a, while trying to end a protest by the mostly Ethiopian migrants who are detained trying to get to Saudi Arabia.

Houthi’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that at least 11 men from the security forces were detained over the incident, along with a number of senior officials who would be tried before court.

The migrant community in Sana’a has called for an international investigation into the tragedy, a demand backed by international rights groups.

About 900 migrants, most of them from Ethiopia, had been detained at the facility – including more than 350 inside the hangar. The site was run by the Passports and Naturalization Authority.

At least 45 people were killed in the fire on March 07, the rebels said, including one who died of his wounds on Friday. More than 200 others were wounded.

The migrants had been protesting and went on hunger strike against alleged abuses and ill-treatment at the detention facility, according to survivors and local rights campaigners.

The rebels claimed on Saturday that the migrants were protesting to pressure the International Organization for Migration to transfer them.

Despite its six-year-old civil war, Yemen remains a transit point for tens of thousands of African migrants desperate to find jobs as housekeepers, servants and construction workers in Saudi Arabia. (Source: The Guardian)