At least 20 people drown in Gulf of Aden crossing

News Stories, 2 December 2008

The Cost of Crossing: People are still ready to risk their lives crossing the Gulf of Aden. Some, like these, pay the ultimate price.

SANA'A, Yemen, December 2 (UNHCR) At least 20 people drowned off the coast of Yemen earlier this week and two were reported missing after smugglers carrying them across the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa forced them to jump overboard in deep water. The boat was reportedly carrying around 115 passengers, mostly Ethiopians.

UNHCR staff in southern Yemen said the remaining 93 passengers on the vessel made it to shore on Monday after being forced overboard near a village outside the town of Ahwar, around 220 kilometres east of the Yemeni port city of Aden. Survivors were transferred to the UNHCR-run Ahwar reception centre.

The dead were buried in a cemetery donated by the government of Yemen. UNHCR staff said the survivors were sick and exhausted from the trauma of the voyage and had not yet been interviewed in detail. The new arrivals received first aid, food and water on the shore and were then transferred to the reception centre to receive a complete medical examination by Médecins Sans Frontières and other assistance.

Survivors said a second boat carrying 55 passengers arrived about the same time yesterday, but there were no casualties reported on that vessel.

More than 43,500 people in over 850 smuggling boats have arrived in Yemen so far this year after making the perilous voyage across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia or Djibouti. Most of those smuggled across are Somalis.

At least 380 people have died and some 360 are missing so far this year. In 2007, some 29,500 people made the voyage to Yemen and the overall number of dead and missing reached 1,400.




UNHCR country pages

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

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


In February 2005, one of the last groups of Somalilander refugees to leave Aisha refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia boarded a UNHCR convoy and headed home to Harrirad in North-west Somalia - the self-declared independent state of Somaliland. Two years ago Harrirad was a tiny, sleepy village with only 67 buildings, but today more than 1,000 people live there, nearly all of whom are former refugees rebuilding their lives.

As the refugees flow back into Somalia, UNHCR plans to close Aisha camp by the middle of the year. The few remaining refugees in Aisha - who come from southern Somalia - will most likely be moved to the last eastern camp, Kebribeyah, already home to more than 10,000 refugees who cannot go home to Mogadishu and other areas in southern Somalia because of continuing lawlessness there. So far refugees have been returning to only two areas of the country - Somaliland and Puntland in the north-east.


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Return to Somalia

Ali and his family are ready to return to Somalia after living in Dadaab refugee camp for the past five years. We follow their journey from packing up their home in the camp to settling into their new life back in Somalia.
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Ethiopia: Far From Home

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Canada: Light Years Ahead

With help from the Government of Canada, lives of refugees in Chad and Ethiopia have been transformed through the Light Years Ahead project.