Monday, April 09, 2007

A group of 33 illegal immigrants from Ethiopia and Somalia died after smugglers forced them off their boat near the Yemeni shore


"Smugglers forced 120 [Ethiopian and Somali] migrants into the sea before anchoring at the shore for fear of the Yemeni coastguard authorities," Sadat Mohammed, head of refugee affairs in the Somali community in Sana'a, told IRIN.

"Those who resisted were stabbed and beaten by smugglers, and then thrown into the stormy sea. Twenty of them were stabbed, and the shore became reddish as a result of the bleeding bodies," he added.

According to Mohammed, Yemeni authorities buried the bodies in the local area.

The victims were on three boats carrying 320 passengers in total that left the Somali port of Bossaso on 4 April and arrived in Bir Ali in Yemen's southern province of Shabwa after a two-day perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden. Two other boats carrying 100 passengers each arrived safely.

The incident came 15 days after at least 35 African migrants were confirmed dead and 113 missing while crossing the Gulf of Aden as traffickers forced 450 Somalis and Ethiopians off four boats into the sea off the Yemeni coast.

The Somali community called on the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to launch an awareness campaign on the risks of the boat journey to Yemen. The campaign could target potential migrants in Somalia via their relatives in Yemen, who already have refugee status.

"We [Somali community in Sana'a] demand that UNHCR launch an awareness programme explaining to the refugees in Yemen the danger of these journeys and the tragic humanitarian situation that occur as a consequence," Mohammed said, explaining that would-be migrants in Africa would call relatives in Yemen before making the crossing.

According to Mohammed, one in 10 refugees in Yemen arrived on smugglers' boats. He said Somalis and Ethiopians come to Bossaso because it is a relatively safe place where they can earn money for their journey to Yemen.

The journey by boat to Yemen costs US $100, twice what it cost a few months ago, the Somali community leader said.

In 2006, about 26,000 people made the Somalia-Yemen trip and at least 330 died, according to UNHCR. Another 300 were reported missing and are believed to be dead.

Yemen says at least 32 African migrants drown after human traffickers force hundreds into sea


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