31 August 2007 – Thousands of Ethiopians and Somalis have already gathered in a northern Somalia port preparing to brave the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen when good weather returns, prompting fears among United Nations refugee officials that the new people-smuggling season will be as bad as the last, when nearly 400 died.
“With insecurity on the rise in Mogadishu [the Somali capital] and tensions increasing in the Ethiopian Ogaden, many more people might arrive in Bossaso,” UNHCR Somalia representative Guillermo Bettocchi said during a recent visit to the port.
“Some humanitarian workers even report having seen a few Kenyans, Eritreans, Ugandans and Tanzanians in Bossaso, which means the town might become a hub for East Africans wishing to cross towards the Gulf countries,” he warned.
Mr. Bettochi was in Bossaso to help launch a multi-agency action plan aimed at saving lives, providing basic services to vulnerable migrants and identifying those who have protection needs, including asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors and victims of human trafficking.
An advocacy campaign is also being launched here to warn people about the risks of crossing the Gulf of Aden and to stress that migrants have rights and should not be deported or returned to other areas of Somalia indiscriminately. It will also explain asylum procedures and who is eligible to pursue them.