Last Updated: Thursday, 28 August 2014, 12:42 GMT

Yemen: Deaths of African migrants continue - Somali consul

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 26 May 2008
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Yemen: Deaths of African migrants continue - Somali consul, 26 May 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/484400011e.html [accessed 28 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

SANAA, 26 May 2008 (IRIN) - The Somali consul in the port city of Aden, southern Yemen, has expressed concern over the increasing number of what he called "death journeys" by boat from Somalia to Yemen across the Gulf of Aden, particularly with the onset of rougher weather at sea in the summer.

[Read this report in Arabic]

Hussein Hajji told IRIN that on 23 May a boat arrived at Ahwar in the southern province of Abyan carrying about 126 passengers, half of whom were Somalis and the rest Ethiopians. According to Hajji, six Ethiopians died during the crossing as they were kept in a compartment of the boat used for storing provisions and ice.

"Now, boat smugglers pack compartments with humans instead of provisions. After three hours, oxygen begins to decrease and so the locked in passengers get nothing to breathe," Hajji said, adding that the six passengers died on board due to a lack of oxygen. "The smugglers threw the dead bodies into the shore and ran away," he said.

The rest of the passengers received assistance from non-governmental organisation (NGO) Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Hajji said.

The new arrivals were then brought to Mayfaa reception centre in Shabwa Province.

The incident happened shortly after a two-day regional conference on migrants held in Sanaa on 19 May. During the conference, UNHCR called on the international community to increase its support to Yemen to help it deal with the growing influx of African asylum-seekers, mostly Somalis.

Seven Somalis drown

According to the Somali consul, a similar incident took place in the same area two weeks ago. "Seven Somalis, including five children, drowned off the shore as they were not able to swim," he said, adding that they were among 130 people who came on a smuggling boat from the Somali port of Bossaso.

Hajji noted that the sea would become rougher over the next three months, decreasing the chances of surviving such a trip. "I hope the number of smuggling boats from Somalia to Yemen decreases as a result. But these daredevil smugglers fear nothing," he said.

Officials say it is very hard to police Yemen's 2,500km-long coastline. Abyan Province itself has a coastline stretching over 300km, and has become a popular point of arrival for smugglers.

According to UNHCR, more than 18,000 people crossed the Gulf of Aden aboard smugglers' boats this year, double the number for the same period a year ago. More than 400 people have died trying to make the voyage in 2008.

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