3,800 African migrants reach Yemeni shores in early October [Archives:2007/1096/Local News]

October 22 2007

ADEN, Oct. 21 ) The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said on Oct. 16 that 38 smuggling vessels – an average of three boats per day – arrived at Yemeni coasts during the first 13 days of this month carrying nearly 3,800.

In a statement, UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis said 38 are known to have died while 134 remain missing. In September, 59 boats arrived carrying 5,808 – 99 of whom died and 141 remain missing, the statement added.

According to UNHCR statistics, 18,757 have crossed the Gulf of Aden this year by boat. An estimated 404 are known to have died while 393 remain missing.

“The new arrivals – both Somalis and Ethiopians – continue telling us harrowing stories of their journeys, for which they pay between $50 and $150 and during which passengers are stabbed, beaten and thrown overboard by ruthless smugglers,” the statement read.

Pagonis noted that on Oct. 9, passengers aboard two of three boats traveling together said they were intercepted by a U.S. Navy vessel, stopped for 20 to 30 minutes, had photographs taken and were given drinking water, which the boat's crew later confiscated.

“Later, during the night, a passenger was beaten when he tried to smoke, which according to the smugglers, put them at risk of being seen by the Yemeni navy,” she added.

Passengers on the third boat said that once near the coast, crew members began beating passengers and forced them into deep water, causing the death of 10 male Ethiopians whose bodies floated to the shore and later were buried on the coast in Mayfa-Hajar.

Migrants robbed

The statement noted that a Yemeni checked the belongings and pockets of Somalis and Ethiopians, some of whom later reported that they were robbed of their money. UNHCR said the incident was reported to the security commander of Nusheima area.

The U.N. organization further noted that those Somalis arriving by boat mainly are from Mogadishu, Banadir region and Afgoi district of the lower Shabelle region.

“They tell us they fled due to ongoing confrontations between Somalia's Transitional Federal Government and opposition forces, as well as tribal fighting and lack of jobs. Others mention floods, drought and roadblocks making movement very difficult.

“Ethiopian arrivals from different regions mention poverty, famine, economic instability, lack of opportunities for education and political reasons for their departure to Yemen,” Pagonis added.