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Six drown, 11 missing in latest smuggling mishap off Yemen coast

Briefing notes

Six drown, 11 missing in latest smuggling mishap off Yemen coast

24 February 2009

Six people drowned and another 11 are reported missing and presumed dead after smugglers carrying 52 Somalis and Ethiopians across the Gulf of Aden forced their passengers overboard in deep water off the Yemen coast. Authorities recovered six bodies near Huseysa, about 500 km east of Aden.

The boat, reportedly carrying 40 Somalis and 12 Ethiopians, was one of seven smuggling boats that reached the Yemen coast on Friday after making the perilous voyage across the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa. Survivors reported that the boat departed on Thursday from Suweto, in Somalia's Bossasso region.

When the smugglers noticed the presence of the Yemeni police onshore, they refused to get closer to the coast and forced passengers overboard in deep water. Initial reports said 35 persons reached shore near Huseysa, where UNHCR's local partner provided them with first aid, food and water. The Society for Human Solidarity (SHS) transported them all to UNHCR's Mayfa'a Reception Centre, where they received further aid, including medical assistance and shelter.

This is the third fatal incident since the beginning of 2009. So far this year, a total of 168 boats and 9,449 people have reached the Yemen coast. To date, the death toll stands at 47 people, with 23 bodies buried and 24 missing at sea.

The influx of new arrivals across the Gulf Aden since the beginning of this year increased slightly compared to the same period in 2008. We are concerned that this trend might continue through 2009. In 2008, more than 50,000 people crossed the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, straining UNHCR's capacity and resources.