Refugees found on forsaken island [Archives:2007/1020/Local News]

January 29 2007

By: Amel Alariqi
SANA'A, Jan, 28 ) Hundreds of illegal African immigrants were found on an isolated Yemeni island on Thursday, said coast guards official.

“We rescued 236 African Immigrants that were found in Al-Aziza island where is located in Ras Amran area near Aden coast” Said the official who wants to remain anonymous.

He explained that there were 140 Somalis including 104 Somalis men, 30 women, and six children, in additions to 96 Ethiopians including 73 men and 23 women.

He pointed out that all the Somalis were handed over to the office of UN refugee agency in Yemen. Whereas, the Ethiopians were handed over to the concerned authorities of immigration, to be repatriated to their country.

“They were lucky that we found them, as this island so far from the coast,” he confirmed, referring that the smugglers seem to have new methods to discard illegal immigrants.

“Mostly the smugglers throw the immigrants from their small boats to the sea 100-150 Km far from the cost, and most of them do not survive. However this time the smugglers offloaded them in this remote island to face their fate” he commented.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR , more than 27,000 people from Somalia and Ethiopia have risked their lives to cross the Gulf of Aden to Yemen in rickety smugglers' boats during 2006. They expect more displacement of Somali citizens if conditions in their country are not be stabilized.

n this regard, UNHCR and the United Nations World Food Program( WFP ) in Yemen announced that they have developed a contingency plan to respond to possible arrival of new refugees.

The two agencies have signed on Tuesday, in WFP office, a Joint Plan of Action for their operations in Yemen. “To facilitating coordination at the field level, the Plan of Action has been an opportunity for the two agencies to develop strategies and mechanisms to monitor the refugee situation and their repatriation or integration.” Said a press release issued from the UN Information Center in Sana'a.

“This Plan is a precious tool to guide our staff in the field as well as our Headquarters to improve assistance to the refugees we serve” said Adel Jasmin