YEMEN. Six people drowned and another 11 are reported missing and presumed dead after smugglers forced passengers overboard in deep water off the Yemeni coast last week, the third such incident so far this year, the United Nations refugee agency said today.
Survivors said the boat had departed Thursday from Suweto, in Somalia’s Bossasso region, Ron Redmond of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told reporters in Geneva.
It was carrying 52 Somalis and Ethiopians across the Gulf of Aden and was one of seven smuggling boats that reached the coast of Yemen on Friday.
“When the smugglers noticed the presence of the Yemeni police onshore, they refused to get closer to the coast and forced passengers overboard in deep water,” Redmond said.
Initial reports said 35 people reached shore near Huseysa, about 500 kilometres east of Aden, where UNHCR’s local partner provided them with first aid, food and water. The six bodies were also recovered near Huseysa.
Redmond noted that this is the third fatal incident since the beginning of 2009. “So far this year, a total of 168 boats and 9,449 people have reached the Yemen coast. To date, the death toll stands at 47 people, with 23 bodies buried and 24 missing at sea.”
In 2008, more than 50,000 people crossed the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, and the influx of new arrivals making the perilous voyage since the beginning of this year increased slightly compared to the same period in 2008.
“We are concerned that this trend might continue through 2009,” said Redmond.