YEMEN. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that at least 20 people drowned off the coast of Yemen on Monday and two others were reported missing after smugglers forced them overboard into the deep waters of the Gulf of Aden during a journey from the Horn of Africa.
“The boat was reportedly carrying around 115 passengers, mostly Ethiopians,” UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.
The agency’s staff in southern Yemen said 20 bodies were recovered, two people were missing and the remaining 93 passengers made it to shore after being forced overboard near a village outside the town of Ahwar, around 220 kilometres east of the Yemeni port city of Aden.
Survivors were transferred to the UNHCR-run reception centre in Ahwar, where they received first aid, food and water and other assistance.
Those that made it to shore said a second boat carrying 55 passengers arrived about the same time yesterday, but there were no casualties reported on that vessel, said Redmond.
According to UNHCR, more than 43,500 people have arrived in Yemen in 850 smuggling boats so far this year after making the dangerous voyage across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia, most of them Somali.
At least 380 people have died and some 360 are missing so far this year. In 2007, some 29,500 people made the voyage to Yemen and the overall number of dead and missing reached 1,400, the agency noted.