UNHCR Says 28 Killed, 38 Missing Off Yemeni Coast
Thursday, 25 June 2009

Up to 66 people drowned in the Gulf of Yemen while trying to cross from Somalia to Yemen at the weekend, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday.

Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said some passengers crowded into smugglers' boats were subjected to beatings, and many were forced overboard and into deep water off the Yemeni coast.

Of the group of 244 would-be migrants -- mainly from Somalia and Ethiopia -- Redmond said 28 had been confirmed drowned and 38 others were still missing after the Saturday-Sunday voyage.

The total number of refugees seeking to go to Yemen, seen as a gateway to the Middle East, has been steady compared with 2006, although more people have died this year.

In 2006 the UNHCR recorded 330 fatalities from the voyage, with 300 missing and believed dead, while this year at least 439 people have died, with another 489 missing and feared dead.

"More people are getting into fewer boats," Redmond told journalists, when asked why the death rate had risen.

He said the desperation of many Somalis and Ethiopians, as well as would-be migrants from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, made them willing to risk their lives in the Gulf of Aden journey despite the dangers involved.

At the same time, Redmond said smugglers were treating their passengers with increasing disdain.

"Every year they seem to be getting more vicious, more ruthless in what they are doing to people," he said.

Source: bdnews24.com

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