At least 20 people drown in Gulf of Aden crossing

News Stories, 2 December 2008

© UNHCR/SHS
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.

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UNHCR country pages

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

New Arrivals in Yemen

During one six-day period at the end of March, more than 1,100 Somalis and Ethiopians arrived on the shores of Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden on smuggler's boats from Bosaso, Somalia. At least 28 people died during these recent voyages – from asphyxiation, beating or drowning – and many were badly injured by the smugglers. Others suffered skin problems as a result of prolonged contact with sea water, human waste, diesel oil and other chemicals.

During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

New Arrivals in Yemen

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

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