Tens of thousands of refugees make the hazardous sea crossing from Africa to Yemen, only to risk being arrested and forced illegally to return home to possible persecution, Human Rights Watch said in a report.
"Illegal immigration is a big problem for Yemen's government, but hunting asylum seekers down like criminals and sending them back illegally is no way to solve the problem," Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said.
More than 100,000 people, fleeing war or persecution, have been smuggled by boat to the coast of Yemen in the last two years. They often suffer brutal treatment at the hands of the smugglers, HRW charges, and face being robbed, beaten or even killed.
Once in Yemen, Ethiopians and others are treated as illegal immigrants and often deported even if they are in danger of persecution in their own countries.
Human Rights Watch wants the U.N. refugee agency to pressure the Yemeni government to meet its obligations toward refugees, Gagnon said.