Six Somali migrants drowned on a crossing to the Yemeni coast after smugglers forced passengers overboard into the deep waters of the Gulf of Aden. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)said that another 11 were reported missing and presumed dead after being forced overboard on Feb. 20.
UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond provided additional details about the incident, saying that the smugglers’ boat was carrying 40 Somalis and 12 Ethiopians from Bossasso in Somalia. As the boat approached the coast of Yemen, the smugglers noticed the presence of Yemeni police onshore. That alarmed them and led them to force the passengers overboard. Redmond told journalists that 35 passengers managed to reach the Yemeni coast safely.
The ongoing violence in Somalia has resulted in tens of thousands of refugees fleeing to the Arabian Peninsula each year.
UNHCR said that last year more than 50,000 migrants made the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden, a strategic waterway linking the Indian Ocean to the Suez Canal and Mediterranean Sea with large numbers dying each year as a result of drowning or pirate attacks
Already this year, 10,000 refugees have sought refuge in Yemen, the poorest of the Arab countries with limited capacities and resources to receive them in such large numbers. Redmond said that the death toll so far this year was 47 refugees.
Somalia has been in the throes of a civil war since the early ‘90s, but violence has escalated in the past few months as armed groups, some with close links to Al-Qaeda, prevail in Somali regions where chaos and lawlessness are rife and engage in repeated clashes with government forces.
Sources: Al-Jazeera/Associated Press news agency/Reuters