According to a statement released by the state-run Saba News Agency on Tuesday, Information Minister Muammar Iryani strongly condemned “the horrific crime committed in a detention centre for the African immigrants”.
He said that “the incident occurred after launching a crackdown campaign by the Houthi militia that arrested African migrants from the city’s streets and public markets, offering them the choice of joining the fighting or facing imprisonment and deportation,” Xinhua news agency reported citing the Saba statement.
The Minister demanded “an international, transparent and independent investigation to uncover the details behind the deadly incident and holding perpetrators accountable”.
The fire broke out on Sunday at the overcrowded detention centre affiliated with the Passports and Naturalisation Authority complex, which is controlled by the Houthi militia.
An official of Sanaa’s local authorities told Xinhua that “the initial death toll caused by the blaze indicated that nearly 60 people were killed and 100 others injured most of them Ethiopian immigrants”.
The official said victims of the fire included both African migrants and facility staff.
According to the official, the facility was specified for holding migrants who entered the country “illegally” before the procedure of deportation starts.
According to the International Organization for Migration, Yemen remains a transit country for tens of thousands of migrants travelling between the Horn of Africa and Saudi Arabia despite years of war.
The organization estimated that the number of migrants arriving in Yemen fell from more than 138,000 in 2019 to just more than 37,500 in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.