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Yemen: Somali boat sinks

Briefing notes

Yemen: Somali boat sinks

13 February 2001

A tragedy occurred off the coast of Yemen on Saturday, when a Somali boat carrying 131 passengers and crew sank within sight of the southern Yemeni coastline near Mayfa'a. As of late yesterday, UNHCR staff investigating the incident reported that there were 14 confirmed deaths (10 Somalis and 4 Ethiopians), 84 survivors, and 33 people still missing. The boat had apparently left the northern Somali port of Bossaso on 2 February in the company of another boat that was carrying some 90 people. When both boats were about two kilometres offshore, the passengers were apparently ordered by the crew to disembark into fishing boats. In the process the boat, which had been leaking all the way from Somalia, was unbalanced and capsized. The crew of six are reported to have returned to Somalia on the second boat after threatening Yemeni fishermen with guns. The other survivors were given food and health assistance by the authorities in Mayfa'a.

Unfortunately this is not the first time that a boat carrying Somalis (and sometimes Ethiopians) to Yemen has capsized. Indeed 12 people were reported to have lost their lives in a similar fashion only a few weeks ago. There are currently 65,000 Somali refugees in Yemen. 12,000 are accommodated in the Al Gahin refugee camps while the rest live in urban areas. Somali refugees are granted "prima facie" refugee status by Yemen.