At least 10 people have lost their lives in a tragic boat smuggling incident on the Gulf of Aden after a two-day journey from Somalia to Yemen.
According to initial reports citing some of the original 115 passengers found on Yemen’s shore near Al Hamra, some 200 kilometers east of Aden, the smuggler’s boat set sail from Bosasso, Puntland in northern Somalia early on Sunday morning. Ten Ethiopians suffocated en route to Yemen as the smugglers crammed and confined 25 people to the engine room with no ventilation. Survivors claim that their bodies were thrown into the sea some seven hours after departure.
Another four people reportedly perished in waves as smugglers, fearing detection by the Yemeni navy, forced the remaining passengers to disembark too far from the coast. After the exhausting trip they were simply too tired to swim and succumbed to the rough sea.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is shocked and saddened by this latest tragic incident.
“We condemn the unscrupulous and inhumane treatment of refugees and others who are desperately seeking to flee the violence, human rights abuses and seriously debilitating life options in the Horn of Africa,” said Erika Feller, the UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection. “We have witnessed similar, isolated, individual incidents before – but never on such scale. This speaks volumes about the smugglers’ utter disregard for human life.”
As of Tuesday morning, UNHCR’s local partner in Yemen, Society for Humanitarian Solidarity, had recovered one male and one female body. They were buried on Tuesday at the local cemetery near Al Hamra. The 101 survivors, mostly Ethiopians, were transferred today to Ahwar Reception Centre for care and recovery.
One hundred and eight people are known to have drowned or fallen victim to risky crossings on the Gulf of Aden since the beginning of the year – compared to only 15 during the whole of 2010.
More than 9,000 Somalis and 27,000 Ethiopians have arrived in Yemen by boat so far this year.
Date: 31 May 2011