Thirty-five people drown after smuggler's boat capsizes in Gulf of Aden

News Stories, 23 April 2009

© UNHCR/A.Fazzina
Men and women wade out to smugglers' boats near Bossaso for the voyage across the Gulf of Aden.

ADEN, Yemen, April 23 (UNHCR) Thirty-five people drowned after one of two smugglers' boats carrying more than 220 passengers across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia capsized off the coast of Yemen's Abyan region.

"This is one of the worst incidents to occur in the Gulf of Aden in recent months," said Leila Nassif, head of the UNHCR office in Aden. "Unfortunately, more and more people are so desperate in their countries of origin that they are ready to put their lives in jeopardy to change their situation."

The doomed boat set out on Monday from the vicinity of Bossaso in northern Somalia's Puntland region and foundered on Wednesday some 250 kilometres east of the Yemeni port of Aden.

By midday Thursday, 35 bodies had been recovered by UNHCR's partner agency, the Society of Human Solidarity (SHS). The remaining passengers are believed to have made it to shore, as did some 105 people on the second vessel.

A total of 165 people were later transferred to UNHCR's Ahwar Reception Centre. The survivors included an eight-year-old Somali boy whose mother drowned, SHS reported. Survivors were provided with water and food before being transferred to Ahwar for further assistance and registration.

So far this year, 387 boats and 19,622 people have arrived in Yemen after making the perilous voyage across the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa. A total of 131 people have died and at least 66 are presumed missing at sea.

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




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Migrants are different from refugees but the two sometimes travel alongside each other.

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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.


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

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