Somali refugee flow across the Gulf of Aden slows down this year

News Stories, 9 April 2010

© UNHCR/J.Björgvinsson
An exhausted survivor of the dangerous sea crossing to Yemen from the Horn of Africa.

ADEN, Yemen, April 9 (UNHCR) The number of people crossing the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea in mixed migration flows to Yemen has nearly halved during the first quarter of the year in comparison with the same period in 2009.

This year, some 9,400 people reached the shores of Yemen in the first three months after setting off from countries in the Horn of Africa. This compares to nearly 17,000 between January and March last year.

The largest drop is registered in the number of Somali arrivals. Some 3,200 Somali refugees arrived in Yemen this year, about a third of the number that crossed in the first quarter of 2009.

Today, Somali refugees represent every third new arrival in Yemen. During the same period in 2009, Somalis accounted for more than half of all the new arrivals by sea. Somali arrivals are automatically recognized as refugees in Yemen and the country hosts more than 170,000 Somali refugees.

However, the drop in the number of Somali arrivals has not been driven by an improvement in the security situation within the country. Many Somali civilians are daily forced to flee their homes to escape waves of fighting between government forces and militias.

This year began with some of the deadliest fighting in Somalia since early 2009. The first three months of 2010 recorded some of the highest forced displacement rates since January last year, with almost 170,000 people fleeing their homes in south and central Somalia, particularly from Mogadishu.

However, the number of new Somali arrivals in the region remains relatively small. More than 20,000 Somalis have fled to neighbouring countries, mostly to Kenya and Ethiopia, this year.

Meanwhile, most of the internally displaced Somalis have found shelter in makeshift camps along the Afgooye corridor just outside Mogadishu or have headed for safer areas of the capital.

Somali refugees reaching Yemen claim that those fleeing the fighting face increasing difficulties in reaching Bossaso in northern Somalia, where they wait for a chance to board smugglers' boats sailing for Yemen. They cite general insecurity as the main reason deterring their movements towards the north. In addition, they say that more and more people simply have no means to pay for the trip to Puntland.

The refugees also report that Puntland authorities are trying to stem the human trafficking and they add that a large number of new arrivals are waiting in Bossaso for the chance to reach Yemen. UNHCR teams in northern Somalia continue to assist the displaced population. In addition, information campaigns warn about the risks involved in making the sea crossing.

There are an estimated 1.4 million internally displaced people in Somalia while nearly 570,000 Somalis live as refugees in neighbouring countries.

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Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration: A 10-Point Plan of Action

A UNHCR strategy setting out key areas in which action is required to address the phenomenon of mixed and irregular movements of people. See also: Schematic representation of a profiling and referral mechanism in the context of addressing mixed migratory movements.

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The link between movements of refugees and broader migration attracts growing attention.

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

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Asylum and Migration

All in the same boat: The challenges of mixed migration around the world.

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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