Middle East

Yemen crisis: Foreigners' tales of escape

Thousands of foreign nationals have been trying to flee Yemen as fighting between Houthi-led rebels and pro-government forces escalate across the country.

Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and Indonesian citizens have been leaving on ships chartered by some of their governments as the main airports remain closed. The BBC has spoken to some of them and here are their stories.


The Egyptian foreign ministry says 7,000 of its citizens have official entry stamps for Yemen but the Yemeni government estimates there could be as many as 17,000 Egyptians in the country.

Ahmed Sami, a communications engineer, has been based in Sanaa for four months on a work contract. He has left his accommodation, along with some Egyptian colleagues, for a safer place.

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Media captionEgyptian engineer Ahmed Sami has been in Sanaa for four months and wants to leave


The Pakistan ministry of foreign affairs says there are approximately 400 Pakistanis still awaiting evacuation, mainly in Aden, Mukalla and Sanaa.

There are 200 Pakistanis stranded in Aden who are waiting to be evacuated by a Chinese naval ship. They will be taken to Djibouti by sea, from where a special flight will take them back to Pakistan.

Image caption Waheed Bangash is a Pakistani national based in Sanaa

"The government needs to urgently evacuate the Pakistanis from Aden because the situation there is very bad compared to Sanaa," said Waheed Bangash, an accounts officer in a Pakistani embassy school in Sanaa.

"The conflict between North and South Yemen has escalated and people in Aden are facing bombardment, and according to my information, that part of the country is on the brink of civil war."

"When news broke that Pakistan was helping Saudi Arabia in the operation and air strikes began, the Pakistani community was looked at suspiciously," he said.


The Foreign Ministry says it has repatriated at least 400 Indonesians as the security situation has worsened.

Image copyright Courtesy Muhammad Wazier Hidayat
Image caption Some Indonesian nationals have been evacuated from Sanaa

According to data from the ministry, there are 4,159 Indonesians who are registered as living in Yemen.

Of these, 2,686 are reported to be students who attend Yemeni schools and universities while 1,488 Indonesians are migrant workers.

Muhammad Wazier Hidayat, an Indonesian student who works at the Indonesian embassy, is in the Yemeni capital.

"I can't say that Sanaa is safe," he said. "The airstrikes hit a warehouse, only two kilometres away from the embassy."

"At the moment, I don't think we want to leave Sanaa," he said. "But if conditions worsen, then we will leave."


China has already dispatched two frigates to Yemen to evacuate its nationals over the past week.

About 570 Chinese citizens have been able to leave in recent days via Djibouti, Chinese sources say.

On Tuesday, the first batch of evacuees arrived in Beijing, holding national flags and banners saying "Thank you, motherland".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Relatives of evacuated Chinese nationals waiting for them at Beijing airport

A staff member at the Chinese Embassy in Yemen said the evacuation was still under way as many citizens still remain in Sanaa.

The majority of Chinese nationals in Yemen are company employees, businessmen and students.

The official said the Chinese embassy in Sanaa and its consulate general in Aden are "operating as normal".


The Indian government estimates that some 4,000 of its citizens remain in Yemen.

So far, 300 Indian nationals have been able to return home with the assistance of the Indian Air Force.

Divya Ganapathy is a nurse who is waiting to be evacuated from Sanaa and has spoken to BBC Hindi.

"I have never seen such a situation before. We can't go out because there are gunshots and bombings.

"We are not able to rest because there is bombing all through the night. I live about 3km [two miles] from the hospital. We don't know what will happen tomorrow. Please help us."

The Indian government has called the evacuation Operation Raahat and has sent two warships - the destroyer INS Mumbai and stealth frigate INS Tarkash - to Djibouti, from where it has been flying its nationals back home.

Where does the Saudi offensive go next?

Yemen - who is fighting whom?

The Houthis: Zaidi Shia-led rebels from the north, who seized control of Sanaa last year and have since been expanding their control

President Hadi: Fled to Saudi Arabia after rebel forces advanced on his stronghold in the southern city of Aden

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: Seen by the US as the most dangerous offshoot of al-Qaeda, AQAP opposes both the Houthis and President Hadi.

Islamic State: A Yemeni affiliate of IS has recently emerged, which seeks to eclipse AQAP

Failure 'not an option for Saudis'

Yemen crisis: An Iranian-Saudi battleground?

Yemen: Waiting for the war

Meeting the Houthis - and their enemies

The rise of Yemen's Houthi rebels

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