• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

More than 50,000 people risked perilous Gulf of Aden crossing last year

News Stories, 9 January 2009

© UNHCR/A.Fazzina
A group of civilians wade out to a smuggler's boat on the coast of Somalia ahead of the Gulf of Aden crossing.

GENEVA, January 9 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency announced on Friday that more than 50,000 people made the perilous Gulf of Aden crossing from the Horn of Africa to Yemen last year and almost 600 died in the attempt.

"Final statistics for 2008 from our office in Yemen show that 50,091 people made the perilous voyage in smugglers' boats across the Gulf of Aden last year, and that at least 590 drowned. Another 359 were reported missing," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.

"This represents a 70 percent increase in arrivals over the previous year's total of 29,500 who made the journey with Somalia-based smugglers who are often brutal in their treatment of passengers. In 2007, the death toll was substantially higher 1,400," Redmond added.

There were again many reports of people being beaten to death during the crossings last year, but most of the deaths were due to drowning after passengers were forced overboard far off the Yemen coast in a bid by the smugglers to avoid detection by Yemeni authorities. The increase in arrivals reflects the desperate situation in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, a region scarred by civil war, political instability, famine and poverty.

UNHCR is beefing up its response in Yemen by improving reception conditions for those who manage to reach its shores and has also carried out information campaigns in the Horn of Africa warning people of the dangers of using smugglers.

The UN refugee agency and its partners also have programmes aimed at improving living conditions of people with protection needs on the Africa side of the Gulf so that they don't need to risk their lives by crossing to Yemen.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Rescue at Sea

A guide to principles and practice as applied to migrants and refugees.

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

Somalia: UN High Commissioner For Refugees In MogadishuPlay video

Somalia: UN High Commissioner For Refugees In Mogadishu

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visits Mogadishu, expresses solidarity with Somali people on eve of Ramadan.
Somalia: Solutions For Somali RefugeesPlay video

Somalia: Solutions For Somali Refugees

In Kenya, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres discusses solutions for Somali refugees.
Somalia: Saving LivesPlay video

Somalia: Saving Lives

Donor support for a specialized maternity-child clinic helps save the lives of displaced Somali mothers.