At least 20 people drown in Gulf of Aden crossing

At least 20 people drown off the coast of Yemen and two are reported missing after smugglers carrying them across the Gulf of Aden forced them overboard.

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

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.