Latest smuggling incidents leave 65 dead or missing in the Gulf of Aden
ADEN, Yemen, September 15 (UNHCR) - Three separate incidents involving smuggling boats in the perilous Gulf of Aden have left 16 people dead and 49 missing and presumed dead in the past few days.
The first incident took place early Sunday off the coast of Radfan, some 150 kilometres east of the Mayfa'a reception centre in Yemen. The passengers reported that the vessel, carrying 142 people, capsized as the crew jumped overboard after being unable to fix an engine failure. A total of 98 people managed to swim ashore while 43 others are missing and presumed dead.
According to survivors, one person was reported to have suffocated in the engine room. Passengers said the boat departed on Thursday morning from the Somali town of Elayo, west of Bosasso. One survivor told UNHCR that passengers were repeatedly beaten and threatened by the smugglers during the journey.
In the second incident, involving a smuggling boat reportedly carrying 112 Africans, several people allegedly lost their lives at the hands of smugglers. Passengers reported that 13 people, mostly non-Somali nationals, had been accommodated in the engine room upon departure from the Somali village of Marera on Thursday night. According to one of the survivors, three people were beaten to death by the smugglers and another 10 died as a result of asphyxiation. The boat reached Yemen on Sunday off the coast of Al Hamra.
A third incident was reported by a Belgian warship, the Louise Marie, which reported sighting a small boat sinking in deep water. The ship's crew rescued 38 people, though survivors said the boat had originally been carrying 46. Rescue helicopters launched from the European Union vessel spotted two bodies in nearby waters. Another six people are missing and presumed drowned.
The authorities in Yemen agreed to allow the rescued passengers to disembark on Tuesday at the port of Mulkalla, 500 kms east of Aden.
UNHCR staff in Yemen report an increasing number of larger smuggling vessels making the journey across the Gulf of Aden, which puts more lives at risk. So far this year, a total of 860 boats and 43,586 people have made the journey to Yemen from the Horn of Africa, a region scarred by civil war, political instability, famine and poverty. Some 273 people have drowned or are missing at sea and presumed dead.