Yacht race veterans raise funds to help survivors of Gulf of Aden crossings

News Stories, 25 May 2009

© UNHCR/H.Morel
Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux's sailing jacket is auctioned in Sables D'Olonne.

SABLES D'OLONNE, France, May 25 (UNHCR) Some of the world's leading long-distance yacht sailors raised more than 2,000 euros at the weekend for the UN refugee agency's operations to help survivors of the perilous Gulf of Aden crossing from the Horn of Africa to Yemen.

The sailors donated personal items to an auction held Saturday in the port resort of Sables D'Olonne on the sidelines of the prize-giving ceremony for the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe single-handed round-the-world yacht race, which started and ended here on France's Atlantic coast.

Thirty skippers started the high seas marathon last November, but only 12 made it back to France, including two women and winner Michel Desjoyeaux, who took 84 days to circumnavigate the globe and retain his title. The French matelot donated a sailing jacket to the auction, which was bought for 400 euros by a girl called Murielle. "I came specially to buy Michel Desjoyeaux's jacket for my boyfriend," she said.

Every competitor donated something, including Britain's Samantha Davies, who came an impressive fourth in her 60-foot vessel, Roxy. The 35-year-old donated a straw hat and sunglasses, while Unai Basurko, who failed to finish the race, gave his teapot. Marc Guillemot, who finished third, gave his waterproof bag, which was bought by a Geneva-based UNHCR staff member and amateur sailor.

Yannick Bestaven, who had a very short race, was the only Vendée Globe skipper to actually take part in the auction, selling several of his T-shirts, shirts and fleeces. "It's a good cause and if we can help by giving objects or clothing, then we do it with pleasure."

A signed photo of Vincent Riou and fellow competitor Jean le Cam, whose rescue he went to near Cape Horn, attracted a lot of bids before selling for 125 euros. The auction of around 50 lots raised a total of 2,200 euros for UNHCR.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Sables d'Olonne and on its long beach at the weekend to celebrate the winners and to enjoy the marvellous weather and a spectacular fireworks display.

Hundreds of them also visited a UNHCR display in the town's Centre des Congrès about the risks that people from Somalia and Ethiopia, including refugees and internally displaced people, take to reach Yemen on smugglers' boats.

Tens of thousands make the Gulf of Aden crossing each year, but hundreds die in the attempt from drowning or ill-treatment. A documentary by French journalist Daniel Grandclément, entitled "Martyrs of the Gulf of Aden," was also shown.

The Vendée Globe competitors have a lot of respect, sympathy and concern for those who cross the dangerous Gulf in search of a better life. They say that they have it far easier in their sea-going vessels.

By Sarah Gaston-Dreyfus/Katia Ruiz in Sables D'Olonne, France

For more information on the Vendée Globe, go to: Vendee Globe

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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

Gulf of Aden People-Smuggling: International Help Needed

An alarming number of people are dying trying to reach Yemen aboard smugglers' boats crossing the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. Over a three-week period in late 2005, at least 150 people perished while making the journey. These deaths are frequently the result of overcrowded boats capsizing or breaking down and going adrift without food or water. Those who survive the voyage to Yemen often give brutal accounts of smugglers beating passengers or forcing them overboard while still far off shore – in some instances with their hands and feet bound.

In response, UNHCR has issued an urgent appeal for action to stem the flow of desperate Ethiopian and Somali refugees and migrants falling prey to ruthless smugglers in a bid to reach Yemen and beyond. The refugee agency has also been working with the authorities in Puntland, in north-eastern Somalia, on ways to inform people about the dangers of using smugglers to cross the Gulf of Aden. This includes production of videos and radio programmes to raise awareness among Somalis and Ethiopians of the risks involved in such crossings.

Gulf of Aden People-Smuggling: International Help Needed

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

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