Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Somalia: Smugglers kill refugees off Yemen

Reported at MSNBC.com as Smugglers force refugees off boat:
Smugglers threw two children overboard and forced dozens of other African refugees to swim to shore in the middle of the night, leaving more than three dozen dead, the United Nations and an aid group said Wednesday.

The bodies of 29 refugees washed ashore near Wadi al-Barakin in Yemen on Tuesday after smugglers forced them to jump into the water, according to the international humanitarian medical organization Medecins Sans Frontieres. Most of those who died could not swim, survivors told the aid group.

About 120 passengers had boarded the boat in Somalia, survivors said. Up to 10 died during the journey: Several people were suffocated and three people, two of whom were children, were thrown overboard by the smugglers, the group said.
Additional information here:
The United Nations refugee agency said the number of people crossing from the Horn of Africa to Yemen in August was three times the number of arrivals for the same month last year, as smuggling resumed earlier than usual due to calmer weather in the Gulf of Aden.

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said 59 boats brought more than 1,700 people to the coasts of Yemen last month.

“That’s triple the number of arrivals for August 2007, when 633 people landed in 10 boats,” Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva. “Smuggling normally subsides between May and September because of stormy weather.”

Mr. Redmond said 12 people on one boat died at the end of August, eight of them after jumping into the sea when a gun battle erupted between the Yemeni military and smugglers near the coast.

Most of the passengers jumped overboard and eight drowned. Four others died during the voyage across the Gulf of Aden. One Somali man reportedly committed suicide by jumping overboard, while three others suffocated in the hold of the boat.

According to UNHCR, almost 24,270 people have made the dangerous voyage across the Gulf of Aden this year aboard smugglers’ boats. More than 177 people died, and 225 people remain missing. At the same time last year, there were 9,153 arrivals, 267 dead and 118 missing.
See also here:
At least 26 people died when smugglers transporting them across the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa forced them overboard off the coast of Yemen, UNHCR staff in the region reported today. Several other people are missing.

Survivors said the boat carrying about 120 people stopped offshore in deep water on Tuesday and all passengers were forced overboard at gunpoint. They said those who refused were pushed and beaten. Some were killed. Survivors said they had earlier been assured by the smugglers that a smaller vessel would take them ashore, but none arrived.

At least 74 survivors made it to the beach and were taken to UNHCR's reception center at Ahwar. Authorities said Wednesday morning that 26 bodies had so far been recovered and 20 others were still missing.

Photo caption:
Deadly Reminder: bodies washed up on the Yemeni coast. An unusually high number of people risked the Gulf of Aden crossing in August. © UNHCR/SHS

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