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Scores of would-be African migrants die at sea

Two Oromo men who recently arrived in Yemen.
(Mohammed al-Jabri/IRIN)

Efto Ali, an Oromo woman aged 20, was among 61 African migrants to make the perilous journey to Yemen from the Somali port of Bossaso a week ago. She said she experienced unforgettable hardship during the three-day boat journey that cost her US$100.

"I was hit by the smugglers when I vomited or moved slightly. They hit my arms with a cord. They killed three passengers for moving," she said.

The smugglers dumped the passengers about 100 metres off Bir Ali, a southern Yemeni village, causing two children to drown.

"It was 9pm when we made it to shore. We were in a miserable condition and had had nothing to eat or drink. We were woken by the sun’s rays," she said, explaining that a team from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) eventually took them to the Mafayaa reception centre in southern Yemen.

Efto now lives with a family in Sanaa city, Yemen's capital, where she said she would start a new life as a housemaid.

Efto is among hundreds of African migrants who have arrived in Yemen over the past few weeks. Scores died at sea in different incidents.


Photo: Mohammed al-Jabri/IRIN
Efto Ali said she was beaten by smugglers when she crossed the Gulf of Aden on a smuggling vessel

Recent accidents, incidents

Hussein Hajji, the Somali consul in the port city of Aden, said dozens of Somalis and Ethiopians died in the Gulf of Aden after two boats capsized on 5 October off the coast.

"Around 37 passengers died and 11 survived the incident," he told IRIN on 8 October. Hajji said most were Somalis and the rest Ethiopians.

In another incident, 30 passengers died after smugglers dumped them off the coast of Ahwar on 5 October, he said. "They were among 110 African passengers. The survivors received assistance from local fishermen when they arrived at night."

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry said on 2 October that 28 Somalis had drowned off the southern governorate of Shabwa. They were among 51 passengers (23 survived), when their boat capsized in strong winds.

"This year, Yemen has received a larger number of African migrants than in previous years," Hajji said.

On 29 September, the UNHCR said 52 Somalis died (and 71 survived) after smugglers abandoned their boat, leaving it to drift around in the Gulf of Aden for 18 days without food or water.

According to the UNHCR, so far this year, at least 31,192 Africans have arrived in Yemen. They included 21,201 Somalis and 9,854 Ethiopians. Over 228 people have died and at least 262 have gone missing.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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