Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

Yemen: People-smuggling boat arrivals, and deaths, starting again

Briefing notes

Yemen: People-smuggling boat arrivals, and deaths, starting again

30 January 2007 Also available in:

After a hiatus of several weeks in the Gulf of Aden, smuggling boats have again started to arrive on the coast of Yemen. Over the weekend, our staff in Mayfa'a reception centre in south Yemen report that a boat with 130 people aboard had arrived in the region of Jebel-Reidah, about 100 km south-east of Mayfa'a. Seven people drowned after being forced to disembark offshore in deep water. The bodies were buried by villagers who live close to the shore. The survivors were transferred to Mayfa'a reception centre where they are being assisted by UNHCR and its partners.

At the end of last week UNHCR received word from the Aden security and immigration authorities informing us that 136 Somalis and 96 Ethiopians had been picked up by them in Imran, a fishing town near Aden. According to the security authorities, the new arrivals were found on Al-Azizyia Island in the Red Sea and transferred by coastal guards to Imran.

This indicates the smugglers have started taking new routes to Yemen as a result of the increased security patrols along the Yemeni coasts, and also following an incident in December in which Yemeni coastal guards tried to arrest smugglers. The new drop-off point near Aden is hundreds of miles away from Mayfa'a Reception Centre. From Somalia, the journey to Aden takes three days, instead of the usual 48-hour voyage.

UNHCR was told that all the latest Somali arrivals will be handed over to UNHCR and transferred to Kharaz camp near Aden, where they will be assisted. The 96 Ethiopian arrivals have been taken to Mansoura prison. UNHCR has asked for access to these Ethiopian men and women, to do an initial screening and make sure that no persons in need of protection are among the group.

Somalis reaching Yemen get automatic refugee status because many are fleeing violent conflict, though not all apply for it. Ethiopians are not automatically considered refugees, but can have cases heard individually. There are currently more than 88,000 registered refugees in Yemen, of whom 84,000 are Somalis. More than 25,800 people have been recorded arriving in Yemen from Somalia this year. At least 330 people have died making the dangerous journey, while more than 300 remain missing.