America

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Off the Somali Coast- Desperation, Escape and Death

VOA has a disturbing piece on the unpleasant choices facing the starving masses of East Africa here
The crew of a Danish vessel Wednesday spotted the 39 people waving frantically from aboard a small, rickety boat foundering in the Gulf of Aden. They were dehydrated and exhausted. One died shortly after the rescue, and one woman had given birth the day before, United Nations officials say.

They are part of a massive wave of migration from the poor, conflict-ridden areas of eastern Africa to the oil-rich countries of the Middle East and on to Europe.

Spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency Astrid Van Genderen Stort says, using ancient trade routes along Africa's Indian Ocean coast to the Gulf of Aden, on average 100 people a day arrive on the shores of Yemen during the calm-water months of September through March.

"There are a lot of Somalis and Ethiopians that have come across: Somalis most likely from the situation in their country, the lawlessness there," said Ms. Stort. "Ethiopians might be going because of finding economic opportunities. Part of them are economic migrants and trying to use these routes to reach that goal. And crossing oceans is never easy and getting access to countries is never easy. But people take the risks and pay thousands and thousands of dollars trying to try to find a better life, risking their lives especially in this part of the world."

It's a two-day journey across rough waters infested by sharks, pirates and unscrupulous smugglers.

Most of those who make the journey, the U.N. says, are simply looking for jobs and a better life for their children, especially as Africa appears to be losing ground in its effort to raise standards of living. They are escaping joblessness, oppressive governments, lawlessness and starvation.
Sometimes their escape leads them into the hands of most unsavory characters:
This week, smugglers ordered at gunpoint 369 Somalis and Ethiopians onboard four motorized boats to jump into the water and swim ashore. They were about six kilometers from the coast. Only 50 people made it to shore alive and were taken to a camp in Yemen run by the UN agency for refugees. The bodies of another 75 were recovered.
An early report on this here. The UN refugee agency has no assets of its own to keep an eye on this sort of thing:
"A lot of it goes unreported because we don't even hear about it," said Ms. Stort. "So many things happen on the sea and we are not on sea and other monitoring agencies are not on sea. I mean, how many more boats are on the sea?"

The U.N. refugee agency has called for the creation of an organization mandated to safeguard the Somali coastline until Somalia's own authorities developed the capacity to undertake that function.
I would think the Coalition Forces in the area could set up a patrol in the area - at least during this migration season.

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