Thirty-five people drown after smuggler's boat capsizes in Gulf of Aden

News Stories, 23 April 2009

© UNHCR/A.Fazzina
Men and women wade out to smugglers' boats near Bossaso for the voyage across the Gulf of Aden.

ADEN, Yemen, April 23 (UNHCR) Thirty-five people drowned after one of two smugglers' boats carrying more than 220 passengers across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia capsized off the coast of Yemen's Abyan region.

"This is one of the worst incidents to occur in the Gulf of Aden in recent months," said Leila Nassif, head of the UNHCR office in Aden. "Unfortunately, more and more people are so desperate in their countries of origin that they are ready to put their lives in jeopardy to change their situation."

The doomed boat set out on Monday from the vicinity of Bossaso in northern Somalia's Puntland region and foundered on Wednesday some 250 kilometres east of the Yemeni port of Aden.

By midday Thursday, 35 bodies had been recovered by UNHCR's partner agency, the Society of Human Solidarity (SHS). The remaining passengers are believed to have made it to shore, as did some 105 people on the second vessel.

A total of 165 people were later transferred to UNHCR's Ahwar Reception Centre. The survivors included an eight-year-old Somali boy whose mother drowned, SHS reported. Survivors were provided with water and food before being transferred to Ahwar for further assistance and registration.

So far this year, 387 boats and 19,622 people have arrived in Yemen after making the perilous voyage across the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa. A total of 131 people have died and at least 66 are presumed missing at sea.

Those who make the crossing are fleeing desperate situations of civil war, political instability, poverty and famine in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.