UK has given £1 billion in aid to Yemen, but has licensed £6.5 billion worth of arms to countries bombing it

  • Value of UK arms sales to coalition bombing Yemen is at least 6.5 times higher than value of aid
  • Saudi-led forces are using UK-made fighter jets, bombs and missiles in ongoing bombardment
  • UK Parliament to debate crisis in Yemen later today

Ahead of a House of Commons debate later today, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has criticised the UK government’s “dangerous and immoral” priorities when it comes to Yemen. Last week the government announced that it has committed £1 billion worth of aid to Yemen since the ongoing conflict began in 2015.

This money is badly needed, but it is eclipsed by the value of arms sales that the government has licensed to the regimes that are responsible for the ongoing bombing campaign.

The most recent government statistics show that the UK has licensed at least £6.5 billion worth of arms to the Saudi-led Coalition since the start of its ongoing bombing campaign in Yemen. The figure covers the period from March 26 2015, when the bombing began, until March 26 2020.

According to the United Nations, the bombing has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. UK-made fighter jets, bombs and missiles have all played a central role in the bombing.

Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed the following to military forces currently engaged in the war:

  • £5.4 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia
  • £715 million worth of arms to United Arab Emirates
  • £91 million worth of arms to Egypt
  • £74 million worth of arms to Bahrain
  • £49 million worth of arms to Jordan
  • £46 million worth of arms to Kuwait

The total also includes £142 million worth of arms licensed to Qatar prior to it pulling out of the Saudi-led Coalition in June 2017, and £7 million to Morocco prior to it leaving the coalition in February 2019.

In reality the real figures will be a great deal higher, with many of the bombs, missiles and aircraft components being licensed via the opaque and secretiveOpen Licence system.

In June 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government acted unlawfully when it licensed the sale of UK-made arms to Saudi-led forces for use in Yemen without making an assessment as to whether or not past incidents amounted to breaches of International Humanitarian Law. This followed a case brought by CAAT. The government was ordered not to approve any new licences and to retake the decisions on extant licences in a lawful manner.

In July 2020 the government announced that it was resuming arms sales. CAAT is considering all legal options to challenge the government’s decision.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:

There is no doubt that Yemen needs aid. The humanitarian crisis is the worst in the world and is getting even worse. Unfortunately, the sums which have been given are a fraction of the value of the weapons that have been sold to the regimes who are responsible for the bombardment.

There cannot be peace in Yemen as long as Saudi-led forces are using UK-made fighter jets to drop UK-made bombs and fire UK-made missiles. The longer the bombing goes on, the worse the crisis will get. There must be a ceasefire and an end to the arms sales that have fuelled the war. 

The fixation on arms company profits ahead of human lives exposes the dangerous and immoral priorities of Boris Johnson and his colleagues when it comes to Yemen.

CAAT would not exist without its supporters. Each new supporter helps us strengthen our call for an end to the international arms trade.

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