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UNHCR warns of danger of illicit sea passage from Horn of Africa

[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 UNHCR/K.McKinsey
The fishermen are asking for help to get rid of illegal ships.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has warned would-be migrants from the Horn of Africa against making the sea passage to Yemen by way of illegal smugglers. “UNHCR-Yemen would like to warn people who have relatives attempting to cross the Gulf of Aden about the danger of doing so,” the refugee agency said a statement. “The latest deadly incidents underscore the urgency of UNHCR’s earlier appeal for action to stem the flow of desperate people who fall prey to smugglers.” According to UNHCR spokesman in Sana, Abdul Malik Abboud, the agency was “doing its utmost in sending messages to … the Horn of Africa, warning people not to take the risk by sailing on such weary vessels”. Since mid-January, 167 people have reportedly died while travelling by boat across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, while others remain missing. The victims departed from the port of Bosasso on the north eastern coast of Somalia. Between 16 and 25 January, four boats, each carrying between 95 and 120 passengers, capsized near the Bir Ali and Jabal Riada coastal areas in the Shabwah province. During the voyage, “people were subject to torture by the vessels’ crews,” a UNHCR statement noted. Mistreatment reportedly led to some passengers throwing themselves overboard rather than face unbearable thirst and hunger, while others died on board, the agency said. According to Abboud, further incidents may have occurred that the refugee agency is unaware of. Frequently, smugglers operating from Somalia will not deliver passengers directly to the shore, fearing capture by Yemeni authorities. Passengers are often left to drown. “Smugglers frequently beat their passengers, take their valuables and sometimes force them overboard while still far way from Yemeni shores,” noted UNHCR. Between 12 January and mid-February, 48 boatloads of people arrived off the Yemeni coast from Bosasso. Among these were 2,528 Somalis, entitled to automatic refugee status in Yemen, which is a party to the 1951 refugee convention. Abboud said that a similar number of Ethiopians had arrived in the same period, almost 200 of whom had registered as asylum seekers with UNHCR. The rest, believed to be economic migrants, he added, had “scattered”. While there are some 80,000 registered refugees currently in Yemen, 75 percent of whom are Somalis, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of other migrants continue to go unregistered. Migrants and asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa reportedly pay between US $30 and US $50 for the voyage to Yemen, often seen as a transit point to the job markets of other Gulf States, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

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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