Scores dead or missing at start of smuggling season

[Yemen] Small fishing boats, like this one in Bossaso'o busy commercial port, carry up to 125 people when used to smuggle migrants from the Somali coast across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. Smugglers charge $30 to $50 and sometimes throw their passengers out
The fishermen are asking for help to get rid of illegal ships. (UNHCR/K.McKinsey)

At least 16 Africans died, and 49 others are missing and presumed dead, in three separate incidents as boats smuggling them from Somalia to Yemen capsized in the Gulf of Aden on 13 and 14 September, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).



Ahmad Akam, a Yemeni coast guard official, said the people smuggling season had just started. "It usually begins in September every year as the weather becomes milder, helping smugglers traffic Africans to Yemen by boat."



He said each passenger paid smugglers about US$50 to get from the Somali port city of Bossaso to Yemen.



On 13 September a boat carrying 142 Somali and non-Somali citizens had engine failure and capsized near the Yemeni coastal town of Radfan, 150km east of the UNHCR-run Mayfaa Reception Centre for Somali refugees, according to Leen al-Mugahed, a public information assistant at UNHCR’s Sanaa office.



"Ninety-eight passengers managed to swim ashore while 43 others are still missing and presumed dead," she said. Survivors said one person had died of suffocation in the boat's engine room.



In another incident, a boat carrying 122 Africans capsized near Yemen’s shores and 13 passengers lost their lives because of severe mistreatment at the hands of smugglers, said a 15 September statement by UNHCR. It quoted survivors as saying the dead passengers had been accommodated in the boat’s engine room since departing from the Somali village of Marera.












After arriving in Yemen and registering as refugees, many Somalis live in difficult conditions

Adel Yahya/IRIN
After arriving in Yemen and registering as refugees, many Somalis live in difficult conditions
http://www.irinnews.org/photo.aspx
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Making health care accessible for refugees in south
After arriving in Yemen and registering as refugees, many Somalis live in difficult conditions


Photo: Adel Yahya/IRIN
After arriving in Yemen and registering as refugees, many Somalis live in difficult conditions

A third incident was reported by a European Union warship, the Louise of Belgium, which detected a sinking boat. The warship proceeded immediately to the scene and rescued 38 people.



UNHCR quoted survivors as saying there were originally 48 people on board. Two dead bodies were spotted by navy helicopters engaged in the rescue but were not recovered as priority was given to survivors. Agency officials said another six passengers were missing and presumed dead.



3,000 new arrivals in September



Rocco Nuri, external relations officer at UNHCR’s Aden office, told IRIN on 16 September there were a total of five boats trafficking refugees and economic migrants from the Horn of Africa to Yemen when the incidents occurred.



About 3,000 Africans have fled to Yemen since 1 September, he said.



"The influx of new arrivals from the Horn of Africa is likely to continue due to a number of push factors which are forcing people to flee Somalia and neighbouring countries, such as ongoing conflict, political instability, famine and extreme poverty,” Nuri told IRIN.



Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, with scarce resources and limited employment opportunities, yet it hosts over 140,000 refugees and grants refugee status to all Somalis entering its territory, according to UNHCR.



Since the beginning of 2009, 860 boats carrying 43,586 people have made the perilous journey to Yemen across the Gulf of Aden; 273 people have died or are missing and presumed dead, according to UNHCR.



ay/ed/cb

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

Share this article
Join the discussion

Support our work

Donate now

advertisement

advertisement