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Mixed Migration in Gulf of Aden

Risking sharks and stormy seas on the Gulf of Aden

Year after year, tens of thousands of desperate Somalis and Ethiopians risk their lives to cross the Gulf of Aden in their search for safety or a better life. Many die atrocious deaths, stabbed, beaten, thrown overboard, eaten by sharks, drowned or asphyxiated in the hold of crowded smuggler boats plying the perilous route between Puntland in Somalia and the beaches of Yemen.

Map of AdenBut the numbers keep growing. During the first 11 months of 2007, more than 26,000 people each paid US$50-US$150 to make the crossing. At least 1,030 of them died or were reported missing - almost double the 2006 total.

The movement of people within the Horn of Africa, a region scarred by poverty, famine and political instability, is not a new phenomenon. However, in recent decades, Yemen has become an ever more important link between this volatile region of eastern Africa and the oil-rich Persian Gulf countries.

In 2007, an estimated two-thirds of those who reached Yemen alive sought assistance from UNHCR, while others attempted to find employment as unskilled labourers in Yemen or moved to the Gulf and further in the search for a decent job and the chance to remit money home to their families.

Yemen has called on the international community for more support in dealing with the ceaseless flow of migrants and refugees. UNHCR and partners have stepped up work in Yemen and Somalia to help new arrivals, raise awareness about the dangers and train coastguards and authorities on refugee law.