28 September 2007 – The deadly drama involving people-smuggling across the Gulf of Aden continues apace, with at least 89 confirmed deaths and 154 missing and presumed dead so far this month as traffickers reportedly stabbed passengers, beat them with iron bars and plastic tubes and threw some overboard, the United Nations refugee agency said today.
Between 1 and 26 September, 50 smuggling boats, nearly two a day, arrived on Yemeni shores from Somalia with 4,741 people, mostly Somalis and Ethiopians fleeing conflict and drought – an increase of 70 per cent over last year when 30 boats arrived with 2,961 people for the whole of the month, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva.
UNHCR is strengthening its operations to deal with the crisis with plans to open a second reception centre along the Yemeni coast to provide medical care and other support.
Several new arrivals reported that Yemeni armed forces opened fire when they spotted the boats, shooting a 70-year-old Somali man in the heart and killing him, she said.
Since the beginning of the year, 13,897 people have arrived in Yemen after making the perilous voyage across the gulf, while at least 356 have died and 272 remain missing and are presumed dead.
The agency at present has 61 staff in Yemen and plans to bring in reinforcements in the months to come.