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February 24 (UNHCR) -UNHCR on
Thursday said it was "horrified," following reports that more than
50 Somali refugees are believed to have drowned at the weekend when
their boat capsized while crossing the Gulf of Aden to Yemen.
Fifty-four of the dead or missing were Somali refugees,
including six children, while the remaining three were smugglers,
UNHCR said in a press release. It added that the incident occurred
on Sunday and there was just one male survivor.
"Based on what we know so far this is the largest loss of life
in the seas between Somalia and Yemen in a single incident since
January 2008," the UN refugee agency said. On that occasion,
smugglers forced 135 people into the water from a boat, causing it
to capsize - 114 people
"We are horrified by this latest tragedy that adds to the
terrible suffering of the Somali people," added High Commissioner
for Refugees António Guterres. "The Gulf of Aden remains one of the
deadliest routes for those fleeing the fatal mix of conflict,
violence and human rights abuses in the Horn of Africa."
The 42-year-old survivor of Sunday's capsizing swam for almost a
day before reaching the Yemeni coast near the port of Bir Ali, some
400 kilometres east of Aden. As of late Wednesday, 23 bodies had
been recovered since a search was mounted by the Yemeni navy. No
more survivors have been found.
The survivor, who had fled fighting in Mogadishu with his wife
and three children, said the boat began taking on water after being
struck repeatedly by strong waves. Eventually it capsized. Just
nine men, including the three smugglers, were left alive at this
stage, clinging to small plastic tanks. The survivor did not know
what happened to these people.
The man was eventually helped by UNHCR's local partner, the
Society for Humanitarian Solidarity. He told UNHCR that his family
and other passengers had boarded a small two-engine boat near the
port town of Bossaso in northern Somalia on Friday evening. On
average it takes three days for boats to cross the Gulf of Aden to
With the latest deaths, 89 people are known to have drowned or
gone missing in the perilous waters been Somalia and Yemen this
year. All Somalis reaching Yemen by unauthorized sea passage are
regarded as refugees.