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Most Britons oppose UK arms role in Yemen


The majority of the British public think the UK should suspend the approval of arms sales to countries fighting in Yemen, a new poll by Yougov for Save the Children reveals today.

Friday, 8 September 2017 - 9:35am

  • Save the Children survey reveals majority of British adults oppose approval of arms sales to Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen.
  • Findings come ahead of major London arms fair, in wake of bloodiest week in Yemen for months
  • 6-year-old girl left orphaned and badly injured after airstrike in Sana’a

51% of Britons oppose approving any arms sales to nations involved in the conflict, which includes British ally Saudi Arabia. Just 11% support Government policy and think sales should remain unchanged. 

Britain has approved £3.8 billion of arms licences to Saudi Arabia, the leader of a multinational coalition in Yemen, since the conflict escalated in March 2015. 

Exports include Paveway IV guided bombs and Typhoon fighter jets. 

Nearly three in five (59%) of the 1,658 British adults surveyed by YouGov described the approval of arms sales as “unacceptable” if they risk being used in Yemen – compared to 15% who said they are “acceptable”.

44% of Britons said the UK should also either cut back (6%) or completely sever (38%) its political support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, against just over a fifth who said it should be maintained (15%) or increased (6%).

More than half of British adults (51%) said they had been unaware the UK Government was approving the sale of arms which could be used in the conflict in Yemen before taking the survey.

George Graham, Save the Children’s Director of Humanitarian & Conflict Policy, said:

“It is clear from this poll that the public believes weaponry built on the British Isles is casting a dark shadow over our standing in the world. 

“All sides have killed and maimed thousands of children in this brutal war – but the fact remains that only one side, the Saudi-led Coalition, is dropping bombs supplied by Britain. The UK must urgently suspend arms sales until there is a proper international investigation and our allies stop blocking vital humanitarian aid.

“Britain has much to be proud of – we are one of the biggest donors of aid to Yemen. But our bombs are also being sent to countries which are killing Yemeni children, bombing schools and hospitals, and impeding aid access.”

The findings come as military buyers head to Britain for a major arms fair.

The Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition, which runs from September 12-15, is the largest arms and security fair in the world and is held every two years in London. 

In 2015, buyers from Saudi Arabia were reportedly among more than 60 foreign military delegations invited by the British government.

The survey results also come in the wake of one of the bloodiest weeks in Yemen’s war this year. 58 civilians were killed between 17-24 August, a higher level than the death toll for the whole month in either June or July. The number of airstrikes in just the first half of this year surpassed the total for 2016, according to the UN Human Rights Office.

More than 4,000 children have been killed or maimed by all sides since the conflict escalated in 2015. Airstrikes continue to be the leading cause of child casualties.