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Yemen: Gulf of Aden

Briefing notes

Yemen: Gulf of Aden

16 May 2006

Another two smuggler boats arrived over the weekend in Yemen from Somalia, carrying more than 335 Somalis and Ethiopians searching for refuge or a better life. The two boats left Shimbarale in Somalia on 13 May and arrived at Belhaf in the south of Yemen late the same day. A total of 35 people made it to the UNHCR reception centre in May'faa in southern Yemen. We do not know the whereabouts of the remaining 300, but we are closely monitoring the situation on the ground. Generally, not all new arrivals come to our reception centre. Many decide to travel on to other destinations - if they survive the journey across the Gulf of Aden.

The group who arrived at our reception told harrowing stories of their voyage across the Gulf, reporting that three passengers were beaten to death by the crew. Their bodies were thrown overboard during the voyage. This is yet another example of the extreme cruelty of the Somali smugglers, who seem to have no regard for human life and are only interested in making money.

This year's sailing season will end in late June, when the seas of the Gulf of Aden will become too rough for the smugglers' boats. Seas turn calm again in September.

UNHCR has for the past year been calling for joint action to tackle the roots of this problem and will continue to highlight the very urgent need for a more global approach.