In this first article in a series of three pieces about different aspects of the Yemeni diaspora, Hisham Almahdi discusses the history, development and nature of the global Yemeni diaspora, and notes how its varying waves and changes have impacted all three.
There are about 6-7 million Yemenis spread across the six continents, at least according to Mohammed Al-Adil, Yemen's deputy minister of expatriates, and several other official and unofficial sources. Compared to Yemen’s total population of over 30 million, the size of the diaspora is indeed significant, although it is unclear whether the diaspora is included in the overall population count. Almost half of the diaspora (3 million Yemenis) live in Gulf countries, mostly Saudi Arabia, where Yemenis, alongside their South Asian counterparts, make up the backbone of the oil producing nations' labour force. Other estimates report that the number of Yemenis in Egypt is somewhere between 500-900 thousand, with another 58,600 and 12,000 Yemeni nationals in the US and UK respectively. This is not to mention second- and third-generation migrants who have been abroad for decades, as well as tens of thousands in countries like Djibouti, Malaysia, Turkey, and Jordan.