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New smuggling season starts in the Gulf of Aden

Briefing notes

New smuggling season starts in the Gulf of Aden

11 September 2007 Also available in:

Smuggling boats from Somalia have once again taken to the Gulf of Aden, despite bad weather conditions. Over the past eight days, four boats landed on the Yemeni coast with 324 people - Somalis and Ethiopians, UNHCR staff in Yemen report. Twelve died on the high seas under horrific circumstances. At least five of them were beaten and stabbed by smugglers and thrown overboard, while another six died of asphyxiation and dehydration in the hold of a boat. One person drowned after disembarking in deep waters.

New arrivals on 3 September told UNHCR staff that passengers on their vessel were beaten with clubs and stabbed throughout the voyage. Several survivors were treated for their injuries at a UNHCR-sponsored medical clinic in Yemen.

There were no casualties on the most recent boat on Saturday. It was carrying 90 passengers. However, when the boat approached shore near Arqa, Yemeni forces reportedly opened fire - barely missing the civilians on the boat. With the arrival of an international NGO, the group was transferred to the UNHCR reception centre. .

So far, all of the boats came from Bosaso and Shimbirale in Somali's Puntland region. According to new arrivals, many people are gathering in the region waiting to make the dangerous Gulf of Aden crossing. Smugglers keep the passengers in very crowded and unhygienic shelters and ask between $60 and $100 for the journey.

Somali refugees registered at the UNHCR's reception centre, declared that they left their country due to conflict, arbitrary killings, the threat of detention, drought and lack of work. Many others said they left their home country to join relatives and family members in either Yemen or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, citing worsening security in their homeland.