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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sea Crimes: Human Smuggling

Scores More People Killed By Smugglers Off Yemen's Coast, UN Says:
Scores of people seeking a better life have been reportedly killed by brutal human smugglers during the perilous Gulf of Aden journey from Somalia to Yemen, adding to a mounting annual death toll that is already in the hundreds, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.

"Up to 66 people drowned Sunday in the Gulf of Aden after being forced overboard by smugglers off the coast of Yemen, survivors said," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond reported.

The tragedy involved two smugglers' boats that left the Somali coastal town of Bossaso on Saturday with 244 people aboard, mostly Somalis and Ethiopians. "The two vessels reached the Yemen coast off Hawrat Al Shatee on Sunday, survivors said. Passengers were forced into deep water and many drowned, they said."

A total of 28 bodies were buried on the beach, while 38 (29 Ethiopians and nine Somalis) remain missing, according to UNHCR.

"So far this year, more than 20,000 people have made the perilous voyage across the Gulf of Aden in boats operated by ruthless smugglers operating from Somali ports," Mr. Redmond said. At least 439 people have died this year and another 489 are missing and feared dead.

"Survivors of the weekend tragedy said the crew of one of the crowded boats had harshly beaten passengers during the voyage, injuring several of them. After being forced into deep water off the Yemeni coast, a total of 178 people managed to make it to shore.

Arrival did not signal safety; some reported being robbed by Yemeni military personnel. Aid workers arriving on the scene provided food and water before transferring the group to UNHCR's Mayfaa reception centre.
UN link here.

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