There were 1,168,199 citizens of Yemen working abroad in 1986. Most were working in Sa'udi Arabia and other Gulf states. When Yemen took Iraq's side in the war that followed its 1990 annexation of Kuwait, Sa'udi Arabia effectively expelled an estimated 800,000–1,000,000 Yemeni workers by revoking their work privileges. These workers had been sending home some $3 billion a year in remittances.
Many people from the Wadi Hadramawt in southern Yemen have worked abroad in East Africa, India, and Indonesia for centuries. Following independence and the establishment of a leftist regime in the PDRY, more than 300,000 people fled to the north, including about 80,000 Yemenis from the YAR, and virtually all minority groups left the country. Subsequent political upheavals resulted in further emigration.
In 1992 more than 60,000 Yemenis returned from the Horn of Africa, chiefly because of turmoil in Somalia. In 1998 and 1999, Yemen experienced a significant influx of Somali asylum seekers, who fled their country for economic reasons. They were accommodated in a refugee camp in Al Ghahain, near Aden, supervised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). As of 1999 the government had expressed its desire to move the camp to a new site about 140 km from Aden and was working with UNHCR to finalize a location. By the end of 1999, UNHCR had helped 874 Somali refugees repatriate to safe areas in their homeland. In 1999, there were approximately 57,000 Somali refugees, of whom 15,000 were being assisted by UNHCR. Other refugees were mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Middle Eastern countries.
The net migration rate in 2000 was 0.1 migrants per 1,000 population, a significant decline from 9.8 per 1,000 in 1990. Worker remittances in 2000 amounted to $1,288,000,000, or 15.1% of GDP. The government viewed the immigration level as too high, but the emigration level as satisfactory.