At least 62 dead in Red Sea Boat tragedy

Briefing Notes, 6 June 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 6 June 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has learned this week of a new boat tragedy off the coast of Yemen that has claimed 62 lives. We are still seeking information, but it is now confirmed that a boat carrying 60 people from Somalia and Ethiopia and two Yemeni crew sank last Saturday in the Red Sea. The victims were reportedly buried by local residents after their bodies washed ashore near the Bab El Mandeb area off Yemen's coast.

UNHCR's thoughts are with the families and friends of those involved. The tragedy is the largest single loss of life this year of migrants and refugees attempting to reach Yemen via the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It follows previous incidents in January, March and April, bringing the known total of deaths-at-sea of people trying to reach Yemen to at least 121 so far his year.

UNHCR strongly believes that every life counts and is working to prevent the alarming loss of life at sea and indifference to people desperately needing protection. We are reiterating our call for governments in the region to strengthen their search-and-rescue capacities, their arrangements for securing safe disembarkation of those rescued and proper identification, and assistance and referral of vulnerable people in need of protection and assistance. We stand ready to support Yemen in these activities, alongside other measures to boost the protection system in the region adopted in the Sana'a Declaration of last November's Regional Conference on Asylum and Migration.

UNHCR has documented the arrival of 16,500 refugees and migrants on the Yemeni coast during the first four months of 2014, significantly less than the 35,000 received in the same period last year. Over the past five years, more than half-a-million people (mainly Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans) have crossed the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to reach Yemen. Boats are overcrowded and smugglers have reportedly thrown passengers overboard to prevent capsizing or avoid detection. Search-and-rescue officials say the practice has resulted in hundreds of undocumented casualties in recent years.

UNHCR provides first aid and food to the new arrivals identified by patrolling teams on the coast, at three coastal transit centres. Our partners, the Danish Refugee Council, the Society of Humanitarian Solidarity, and the Yemen Red Crescent also provide relief, help patrol the coast and provide transport to the nearest reception centre for initial registration. With Somalis receiving prima facie refugee status, those non-Somalis who express interest in seeking asylum are provided with attestation letters, valid for 20 days, to approach the UNHCR offices in Sana'a or Aden and seek asylum.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Sana'a: Johannes van der Klaauw on mobile + 967 71 222 51 11
  • In Sana'a: Nick Stanton on mobile +967 71 222 5087
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards at +41 79 557 91 20
  • In Geneva: Ariane Rummery on mobile +41 79 200 7617
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

During two decades of conflict and chaos in Somalia, Mohammed Ousman stayed in Mogadishu and taught art as others fled the country. But life became impossible after Al Shabaab militants killed his brother for continuing to practise art. Four of the man's nine children were also murdered. Mohammed closed his own "Picasso Art School" and married his brother's widow, in accordance with Somali custom. But without a job, the 57-year-old struggled to support two families and eventually this cost him his first family. Mohammed decided to leave, flying to Berbera in Somaliland in late 2011 and then crossing to Aw-Barre refugee camp in Ethiopia, where he joined his second wife and her five children. UNHCR transferred Mohammed and his family to Addis Ababa on protection grounds, and in the belief that he could make a living there from his art. But he's discovering that selling paintings and drawings can be tough - he relies on UNHCR support. The following images of the artist and his family were taken by UNHCR's Kisut Gebre Egziabher.

A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

Yemeni Province Starts Rebuilding as 100,000 Displaced Return

Life is slowly returning to normal in urban and rural areas of the southern Yemeni province of Abyan, where fighting between government forces and rebels caused major population displacements in 2011 and 2012.

But since last July, as hostilities subsided and security began to improve, more than 100,000 internally displaced people (IDP) have returned to their homes in the province, or governorate. Most spent more than a year in temporary shelters in neighbouring provinces such as Aden and Lahj.

Today, laughing children once more play without fear in the streets of towns like the Abyan capital, Zinjibar, and shops are reopening. But the damage caused by the conflict is visible in many areas and the IDPs have returned to find a lack of basic services and livelihood opportunities as well as lingering insecurity in some areas.

There is frustration about the devastation, which has also affected electricity and water supplies, but most returnees are hopeful about the future and believe reconstruction will soon follow. UNHCR has been providing life-saving assistance since the IDP crisis first began in 2011, and is now helping with the returns.

Amira Al Sharif, a Yemeni photojournalist, visited Abyan recently to document life for the returnees.

Yemeni Province Starts Rebuilding as 100,000 Displaced Return

Somalia's Hawa Aden Mohamed wins Nansen Refugee Award

Hawa Aden Mohamed, a former refugee whose visionary work has transformed the lives of thousands of displaced Somali women and girls, is the winner of the 2012 Nansen Refugee Award. Widely known as "Mama" Hawa, she is the founder and director of an ambitious education programme in Galkayo, Somalia, that helps women and girls secure their rights, develop vital skills and play a more active role in society. View a slideshow of Mama Hawa's work at the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development, which offers literacy courses and vocational training as well as food and other forms of humanitarian relief to internally displaced people [IDP].

Somalia's Hawa Aden Mohamed wins Nansen Refugee Award

Canada: Light Years Ahead
Play video

Canada: Light Years Ahead

With help from the Government of Canada, lives of refugees in Chad and Ethiopia have been transformed through the Light Years Ahead project.
Ethiopia: South Sudanese Refugee InfluxPlay video

Ethiopia: South Sudanese Refugee Influx

Despite a ceasefire agreement signed in early May, fighting continues between government and opposition forces in South Sudan. The renewed conflict has forced thousands of refugees to seek shelter in Ethiopia.
South Sudan: Here and HelpingPlay video

South Sudan: Here and Helping

The South Sudanese town of Bor was among the worst hit in the latest violence in the country. These newly displaced people found shelter in an Ethiopian refugee camp.