UN agency fears 30 Somali boat people dead in tragedy off the coast of Yemen

People wading out to a smuggler's boat on the coast of Somalia ahead of the Gulf of Aden crossing

7 April 2009 – Some 30 Somalis escaping across the Gulf of Aden are feared dead after one boat capsized and another hit rough seas this weekend in two separate smuggling incidents, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today.

The first boat, carrying 40 migrants, keeled over Saturday evening as the passengers attempted to disembark off the Yemeni coast. Although 20 made it to shore, the bodies of the remaining 20 have not been recovered, according to UNHCR.

Survivors washed ashore near Rass al Kalb, where a UNHCR partner, the Society for Human Solidarity (SHS), provided them with food and water before transporting them to the UNHCR reception centre in Mayfa’a for further assistance and registration.

The second tragedy occurred late Sunday afternoon off the coast of Rujeema, where survivors reported that eight migrants died and two were missing after their vessel, carrying 23, wandered into turbulent seas and began taking on water.

Witnesses told UNHCR that some of the deaths were due to suffocation as the smugglers covered the passengers with a tarpaulin in an effort to stop the water from getting in.

The 13 migrants that made it to dry land near Rujeema were given first aid by SHS and transferred to the UNHCR reception centre in Mayfa’a.

So far this year, a reported 17,035 people have made the dangerous voyage from the Horn of Africa to Yemen, while 74 people have died and 51 remain missing at sea, according to UNHCR.

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

Source: UN News Centre