14 September 2007 – At least 56 Africans have died violently, some reportedly beaten or doused with acid by smugglers, as the new season of people smuggling gathers steam across the Gulf of Aden in a perilous exodus that takes tens of thousands of Somalis and Ethiopians to Yemen every year, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.
In the past 10 days the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has recorded the arrival of 12 boats carrying 925 Somalis, Ethiopians and others. Another smuggler’s boat apparently failed to reach Yemen after encountering problems about 100 kilometers west of Bosaso in Somalia’s Puntland region. The trafficking regularly resumes in September after the summer’s storms subside.
At least 100 Somalis aboard one vessel reportedly made it back to shore in Somalia after being adrift for six days. “Many of them had been beaten, and some were reportedly doused with acid by the smugglers,” UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva. “The bodies of those who did not survive the six-day ordeal were reportedly thrown overboard. We do not have the numbers of those who died there.”
The most recent arrivals in Yemen said they had been beaten by smugglers during the trip and 24 people on their boat died – three from beatings, 11 who had been crammed into the hold, and 10 who drowned in deep waters offshore. Once they reached shore, they came under fire from Yemeni military forces, they told UNHCR.
UNHCR has scaled up its presence to some 25 staff in Somalia’s northern Puntland region and is preparing as a first step, along with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and International Organization for Migration (IOM), an information campaign to warn people of the risks they face in using smugglers.
Click for more information on International Day for preservation of the Ozone Layer: International Day for the preservation of the Ozone Layer