SOMALIA-YEMEN: Over 80 African migrants die as boat capsizes off coast

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Scores of African migrants, mostly from Somalia, died on 29 November when their boat capsized off the Yemeni coast, the Somali consulate in Yemen’s southern province of Aden has said.

Somalia’s consul-general in Aden, Hussein Haji Ahmed, told IRIN the death toll was over 80, including women and children.

The boat was carrying over 120 African migrants and was heading for the southern Yemeni province of Hadhramaut.

After charting an unusual course in order to avoid being spotted by coastguards, the boat capsized as smugglers tried to force the passengers to swim for the shoreline, Ahmed said. “Some were stabbed and beaten with cudgels and knives.”

Some 45 people survived and the Yemeni authorities sent them to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reception camp in Mayfaa. “Twenty of them are still there as they are receiving medical treatment. The rest were sent to Kharaz refugee camp, 150km west of Aden,” he said.

“This was a sad incident. We hope a way can be found to stop the war in Somalia. I call on the UN and charitable organisations to save human lives inside Somalia,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed explained that smugglers have been forced to chart different courses and be more cautious after Yemeni coastguards in mid November caught 13 African smugglers when they reached the southern province of Shabwa. They were arrested after an exchange of fire and are now in detention awaiting trial, he said.

Yemen’s Gulf of Aden coastline extends over 1,465km, which makes it difficult for coastguards to monitor.

On 21 November a boat capsized in the Gulf of Aden, claiming the lives of 65 African migrants, mostly Somalis.

Over 20,000 trafficked

According to the UNHCR, over 20,000 African migrants have crossed the Gulf of Aden this year in boats operated by traffickers operating from Somali ports. At least 439 people have died this year and another 489 are missing and feared dead, the UNHCR said.

In 2006 alone, the number of Africans entering Yemen reached some 26,000, according to the UNHCR.



Source: IRIN