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Gulf of Aden smuggling tragedy

Briefing notes

Gulf of Aden smuggling tragedy

19 June 2009

We sent you details yesterday afternoon of another smuggling tragedy in the Gulf of Aden. Eighteen people drowned and another 29 are missing and presumed dead after the smuggling boat they were on capsized in strong winds and rough seas this week off the coast of Yemen.

The boat, which departed June 11 from the Somali village of Marera, east of the northern port of Bossaso, sailed for four days across the Gulf of Aden prior to reaching the shore of Yemen's Hadramout region Monday morning. The boat, reportedly carrying 88 people, capsized after taking on water while still far from shore off the Yemen town of Bourom, some 500 kilometres east of Aden.

Eighteen bodies were recovered by the Society for Humanitarian Solidarity (SHS), UNHCR's local partner. They were buried in Al Hamra cemetery, south of the Mayfa'a registration centre.

Some 24 African nationals made it to the shore aboard a smaller skiff which was towed behind a bigger boat. Upon arrival on the beach, SHS provided them with food and water as well as transportation to Mayfa'a for further assistance and registration.

SHS continued patrolling some 100 kms of shoreline between Bourom and Bir Ali for three days in search of survivors. As a result, four survivors were found ashore in the vicinity of Bourom, and two others were found alive on the outskirts of Mukalla, some 600 kms east of Aden. The latter said they had walked towards Mukalla along with another 11 Somali survivors, who have not been traced so far.

More bodies are expected to be washed ashore as the likelihood of finding others alive dims due to seasonal high waves throughout the Gulf of Aden from June to September.

So far this year, more than 522 boats and 25,764 people have arrived in Yemen after making the perilous voyage across the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa. To date, 146 people have reportedly drowned and 85 are 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.