Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

Gulf of Aden: Death toll increases in October

Briefing notes

Gulf of Aden: Death toll increases in October

16 October 2007

The rate of smuggling boats reaching the shores of Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden appears to have increased during the first half of October along with the appalling death toll. More than 38 smuggling boats - an average of three boats a day - have been recorded arriving along Yemen's coast during the first 13 days of October carrying nearly 3,800 people. A total of 38 are known to have died while 134 remain missing. In September, 59 boats arrived carrying 5,808 people - 99 died and 141 remain missing.

The new arrivals - both Somalis and Ethiopians - continue to tell us harrowing stories of their journeys - for which they pay between $50 and $150 - during which passengers are stabbed, beaten and thrown overboard by ruthless smugglers. On 9 October, passengers on two of three boats travelling together, told us they had been intercepted by a US Navy vessel, stopped for 20-30 minutes, had photos taken and were distributed with drinking water which was later confiscated by the crew of the boat. Later during the night, a passenger was beaten because he tried to smoke, which according to the smugglers was putting them at risk of being seen by the Yemeni navy.

These passengers reportedly arrived safely on shore, where the Yemeni navy was present and checked the belongings and pockets of the Somalis and Ethiopians - some of whom later reported that they were robbed of their money. The incident was reported to the security commander of the Nusheima area.

The passengers on the third boat told us that near the coast the crew started beating the passengers and forced them into deep water, causing the death of 10 male Ethiopians. Their bodies floated to the shore and were later buried on the coast, in Mayfa-Hajar.

The Somalis arriving on the boats are mainly from Mogadishu, Banadir region and Afgoi district of the lower Shabelle region. The Somalis told us they left because of ongoing confrontations between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and opposition forces, tribal fighting as well as the lack of jobs. Others have mentioned floods, drought, and road blocks that make movement very difficult. The Ethiopian arrivals come from different regions mentioning poverty, famine, economic instability, lack of opportunities for education and political reasons for their departure to Yemen.

This year, a total of 18,757 people have crossed the Gulf of Aden by boat. An estimated 404 are known to have died while 393 remain missing.