The island's governor issued a decree in October banning foreigners without Yemen-issued visas to stop the UAE from issuing its own tourist visas
Socotra: UAE releases Socotri-Emirati citizens detained at airport by Yemeni authorities
UAE forces on the Yemeni island of Socotra released a number of banned travelers due to security issues via a private Emirati plane on Saturday.
In a memo to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, a copy of which was obtained by Almasdar Online, Socotra Governor Ramzi Mahrous said that Emirati forces had stormed Socotra airport and removed suspects being held on charges of disturbing security and entering without an official visa.
The raid happened despite the presence of Saudi forces and Yemen’s 1st Marine Brigade at the airport, Mahrous wrote. He accused UAE forces of taking humanitarian cover to spread chaos in the governorate with the support of its Socotra loyalists, who are aligned with the pro-secession Southern Transitional Council struggling with Hadi's government for control of the interim capital Aden.
The banned travelers being held Saturday included Socotri folk singers who also hold UAE citizenship. Yemeni authorities accused them of being part of a group of protesters who were in a sit-in at the governor's office, according to a source familiar with the situation. Saudi forces at the airport intervened allowed the band to board the UAE plane.
Mahrous issued a decree in October requiring all travelers to the island to first pass through Sayun airport in Hadhramout governorate on Yemen's mainland. Authorities at the Sayun airport have been denying visas to Socotra to people coming from the UAE, despite the fact that thousands of Socotris have UAE citizenship. That angered the UAE, whose citizens and the employees of its representative's companies have been visiting the island using tourist visas issued by Abu Dhabi.
Yemen's internationally recognized government has been struggling with the UAE for influence in Socotra since the early days of the war, when Emiratis started basing troops there. The UAE has at times prevented Yemeni officials, including Hadi himself, from visiting the island.
The new restrictions are designed to undercut Emirati influence in Socotra, including pro-secession protests which often accuse Mahrous of corruption.
An official from the local authority in Socotra previously told Almasdar Online that two Asian employees of the UAE representative’s companies were detained in Socotra after entering the island without an official visa.
Editor's note: this article was updated with details about the banned travelers held at Socotra's airport.