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Latest Gulf of Aden smuggling mishap leaves 18 dead, 29 missing

News Stories, 18 June 2009

© Paul Hansen/Dagens Nyheter
A group of exhausted people shortly after reaching Yemen after a gruelling trip across the Gulf of Aden.

ADEN, Yemen, June 18 (UNHCR) Eighteen people drowned and another 29 are missing and presumed dead after a smuggling boat capsized in the Gulf of Aden due to strong winds and rough seas this week off the coast of Yemen.

The boat, which departed June 11 from the Somali village of Marera, east of the northern port of Bossaso, sailed for four days across the Gulf of Aden prior to reaching the shore of Yemen's Hadramout region Monday morning. The boat, reportedly carrying 88 people, capsized after taking on water while still far from shore off the Yemen town of Bourom, some 500 kilometres east of Aden.

Eighteen bodies were recovered by the Society for Humanitarian Solidarity (SHS), UNHCR's local partner. They were buried in Al Hamra cemetery, south of the Mayfa'a registration centre.

Some 24 African nationals made it to the shore aboard a smaller skiff which was towed behind a bigger boat. Upon arrival on the beach, SHS provided them with food and water as well as transportation to Mayfa'a for further assistance and registration.

SHS continued patrolling some 100 kms of shoreline between Bourom and Bir Ali for three days in search of survivors. As a result, four survivors were found ashore in the vicinity of Bourom, and two others were found alive on the outskirts of Mukalla, some 600 kms east of Aden. The latter said they had walked towards Mukalla along with another 11 Somali survivors, who have not been traced so far.

More bodies are expected to be washed ashore as the likelihood of finding others alive dims due to seasonal high waves throughout the Gulf of Aden from June to September.

So far this year, more than 522 boats and 25,764 people have arrived in Yemen after making the perilous voyage across the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa. To date, 146 people have reportedly drowned and 85 are missing at sea.

Those who make the crossing are fleeing desperate situations of civil war, political instability, poverty and famine in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

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Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration: A 10-Point Plan of Action

A UNHCR strategy setting out key areas in which action is required to address the phenomenon of mixed and irregular movements of people. See also: Schematic representation of a profiling and referral mechanism in the context of addressing mixed migratory movements.

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Migrants are different from refugees but the two sometimes travel alongside each other.

Somalia Emergency: Urgent Appeal

Widespread malnutrition among Somali refugees requires immediate action.

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Crisis in Horn of Africa

Tens of thousands of Somalis are fleeing conflict and drought into Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

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Asylum and Migration

All in the same boat: The challenges of mixed migration around the world.

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

The number of people arriving on the coast of Yemen after being smuggled across the treacherous Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa has more than doubled this year. So far this year, more than 18,000 people have arrived in Yemen across the Gulf of Aden, and nearly 400 have died attempting the journey.

This surge in arrivals is largely due to the continuing conflict in Somalia and the use of new smuggling routes from Somalia to Yemen and across the Red Sea from Djibouti. Many of the new arrivals also tell of crop losses due to drought, which forced them to leave home. This photo set focuses on those people leaving from Djibouti.

UNHCR has been calling for increased action to save lives in the Gulf of Aden and other waters. We have stepped up our work in Yemen under a US$17 million operation that includes extra staff, provision of additional shelter and assistance, and protection for refugees and internally displaced people.

Posted on 20 May 2008

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

Gulf of Aden People-Smuggling: International Help Needed

An alarming number of people are dying trying to reach Yemen aboard smugglers' boats crossing the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. Over a three-week period in late 2005, at least 150 people perished while making the journey. These deaths are frequently the result of overcrowded boats capsizing or breaking down and going adrift without food or water. Those who survive the voyage to Yemen often give brutal accounts of smugglers beating passengers or forcing them overboard while still far off shore – in some instances with their hands and feet bound.

In response, UNHCR has issued an urgent appeal for action to stem the flow of desperate Ethiopian and Somali refugees and migrants falling prey to ruthless smugglers in a bid to reach Yemen and beyond. The refugee agency has also been working with the authorities in Puntland, in north-eastern Somalia, on ways to inform people about the dangers of using smugglers to cross the Gulf of Aden. This includes production of videos and radio programmes to raise awareness among Somalis and Ethiopians of the risks involved in such crossings.

Gulf of Aden People-Smuggling: International Help Needed

Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Every year thousands of people in the Horn of Africa - mainly Somalis and Ethiopians - leave their homes out of fear or pure despair, in search of safety or a better life. They make their way over dangerous Somali roads to Bossaso in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

In this lawless area, smuggler networks have free reign and innocent and desperate civilians pay up to US$150 to make the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden.

Some stay weeks on end in safe houses or temporary homes in Bossaso before they can depart. A sudden call and a departure in the middle of the night, crammed in small unstable boats. At sea, anything can happen to them - they are at the whim of smugglers. Some people get beaten, stabbed, killed and thrown overboard. Others drown before arriving on the beaches of Yemen, which have become the burial ground for hundreds who many of those who died en route.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden

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