UNHCR appalled at attack on refugee boat off Yemen

Statement by UNHCR spokesman William Spindler.

Somali refugees look back anxiously as they prepare to board a smuggler's boat to cross to Yemen from Somalia, November 2007.   © Alixandra Fazzina

UNHCR is appalled by the deaths of refugees after a boat carrying them across the Red Sea from Yemen to Sudan was reportedly attacked overnight on Thursday off the governorate of Al Hudaydah on Yemen’s west coast. 

According to the latest information available, the vessel was carrying 140 passengers. So far, 32 individuals are reported dead and 30 injured. UNHCR is continuing to verify these details.

UNHCR teams on the ground are following up the situation of the survivors in order to provide them, and the families of those killed, with immediate support.

As conditions in Yemen deteriorate as a result of the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis, refugees and asylum seekers are increasingly fleeing onwards, following established migratory routes, including across the Red Sea to Sudan with the intention of heading onwards to Europe. This tragic incident is the latest in which innocent civilians, including Yemenis,  refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, continue to suffer and disproportionately bear the brunt of the conflict in Yemen.

UNHCR continues to urge all parties to the conflict in Yemen do their utmost to protect civilians.

Yemen is hosting over 255,000 Somali refugees. Last year, more than 117,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Yemen. In February, UNHCR launched a major campaign to spread awareness about the dangers of crossing the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea from Africa to war-stricken Yemen and highlighting the horrendous conditions and rising risks.