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Arrivals in Yemen double

Briefing notes

Arrivals in Yemen double

6 May 2008

The number of people arriving on the coast of Yemen after being smuggled across the treacherous Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa has more has more than doubled this year. By 20 April, more than 15,300 people had been reported arriving in Aden on 324 boats, and 361 people were reported killed or missing during the hazardous voyage. During the same period in 2007, a total of 7,166 people had arrived in Yemen on 60 boats, and approximately the same number had perished.

The surge in arrivals early this year was largely due to the continuing conflict in Somalia and the use of new smuggling routes from Somalia to Yemen and across the Red Sea from Djibouti. Many of the new arrivals also tell of crop losses due to drought, which forced them to leave home.

People travelling on small, fast boats have to pay smugglers an average of US $130 to $150 each, while those sailing on larger, slower vessels pay between $50-$70. Records kept by UNHCR staff indicate a reduced number of deaths at sea in relation to the number of vessels making the voyage. Some new arrivals mentioned having received water and food during the crossing. The boats also seem less crowded than in previous years.

UNHCR has been calling for increased action to save lives in the Gulf of Aden and other waters. We have stepped up our work in Yemen under a $17 million operation that includes extra staff, provision of additional shelter and assistance, and protection for refugees and internally displaced people. We have boosted our protection capacity and reception facilities along the coast and held training programmes for coast guards and other officials. An additional reception centre was also opened. UNHCR works closely with the local agency, Society for Humanitarian Services (SHS), and international aid organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).