30 refugees drown near Yemen coast after boat capsizes [Archives:2007/1025/Local News]

February 15 2007

SANA'A, Feb, 14 ) At least 30 migrants drowned on Monday when their boat capsized off the Yemeni coast.

“Once again the Gulf of Aden has claimed the lives of at least 30 Somalis and Ethiopians when the boat smuggling them from Somalia to Yemen capsized on approach to the Yemeni coast on Monday,” said UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond

Unconfirmed reports from survivors placed the death toll as high as 78. The dead are being buried near the beach. Three other boats carrying 120 migrants to Yemen reached the shore safely, Redmond said.

“In less than a month, we have seen a dramatic increase in people smuggling from Somalia, with over 1,600 arrivals in Yemen aboard some 20 boats. At least 30 people died making earlier voyages since mid-January,” said the UNHCR spokesman.

In recent months, UNHCR has reported cases of migrants being savagely beaten to death and thrown overboard by club-wielding smugglers just for requesting water. “Despite the increase in price for the journey, from $40 to $100, hundreds of desperate people continue taking the risk,” Redmond noted.

“Last week alone, at least nine smuggling boats arrived at six points along the Yemeni coast. Many of the newly arrived migrants were badly beaten and told UNHCR that the smugglers stole their money during the voyage. The Somalis said they fled their homes during and following the end of hostilities between government forces and the Islamic Courts Union. Many said they were exposed to shooting by the armed militias and had their money and belongings taken at checkpoints manned by the same militia.”

Redmond said that the smugglers have changed their tactics and are now arriving at different points along the Yemeni coast. “It's harder for Yemeni coastal patrols to catch them and for UNHCR and its partners to register them and provide aid.”

According to UNHCR figures, more than 27,000 people fled to Yemen from Somalia last year, with 330 deaths and another 300 still missing.