More Than 40 Singaporeans Choose To Remain In Yemen, Urged To Exercise Personal Responsibility

Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam today (April 15) called on more than 40 Singaporeans who are still living in war-torn Yemen to uphold “personal responsibility” by leaving the country immediately.

Speaking to the media today, he said: “The Government has a duty to try and help our citizens in situations like this. At the same time, people also have an individual, personal responsibility not to put themselves at risk.”

Despite “obvious risks” due to the increased fighting in Yemen and advisories issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), some have not heeded calls to leave, he added.

Drawing a parallel with the situation in Syria, Mr Shanmugam said: “Again, despite many advisories, some of our people did not leave Syria in time, and then they found that all the escape routes were cut off and leaving Syria became extremely difficult.”

Syria has been grappling with a civil war since 2011.

“So really, those who are (in Yemen) should leave immediately and if they don’t, they are putting themselves at serious risk. We will then be operating in a situation where our own ability to rescue them becomes very limited,” he added.

Tensions between Houthi rebels and forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi have escalated since the Houthis took control of Yemen’s capital Sana’a in September last year, five days after MFA issued the first advisory for Singaporeans to leave Yemen.

Since last month, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition has been targeting the Houthis and their allies—namely forces loyal to former Yemeni leader Ali Abdulla Saleh— in a series of air strikes.

Despite the MFA’s multiple appeals, more than 40 Singaporeans, including students, businessmen, homemakers and several young children, are still living in various Yemeni cities.

“We won’t know the full number, but that is our estimate,” said Mr Shanmugam.

TODAY understands that many have remained due to business and education obligations. Some, such as Mr Haykal Bafana, 43, told TODAY that he had lived through similar unrest in 2011.

As Singapore does not have an embassy in Yemen, it seeks assistance from other countries such as China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Oman, said Mr Shanmugam.

However, many embassies on the ground are winding down rescue operations, he noted, which “limits (the Government’s) ability to do much in Yemen any further”.

A total of 25 Singaporeans have left Yemen in the last two weeks, including a woman who was evacuated yesterday.

As air travel in Yemen has ceased, current rescue operations are primarily conducted over land, and can take up more than 20 hours through rough terrain.

TODAY understands that the Singaporeans who managed to get out of Yemen also encountered challenges such as 10-hour bus delays and the lack of travel documents.

MFA's Evacuation Efforts In Yemen



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