African migrants drown off Yemen

Posted by admin on Mar 1st, 2009

Al Jazeera. March 01, 2009
At least 45 people have drowned after a boat carrying them from Somalia across the Gulf of Aden capsized in deep waters off Yemen. The boat, transporting 46 migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia, capsized on Friday night about 95km from Mukalla, a south-eastern Yemeni port, the Yemeni interior ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

An Ethiopian passenger and three traffickers were able to get safely to shore, the ministry said. The smugglers were arrested.

The boat was making a two-day journey across the Gulf of Aden from Bossasso, a northern Somali port.

It was not clear what caused the boat to capsize.

It is the second accident involving migrants off Yemen in about a week.

On February 20, six African migrants drowned and 11 were reported missing,  presumed dead after traffickers pushed dozens of passengers overboard in deep waters off Yemen’s south-eastern coast.

Smugglers forced the 52 passengers – 40 Somalis and 12 Ethiopians – into the sea after they spotted Yemeni coast guards onshore.

Many African migrants, mostly from conflict-torn Somalia, try to reach Yemen, which is seen as a gateway to Europe and the oil-rich countries of the Arabian peninsula.

Hundreds of people perish every year in the perilous exodus that takes thousands of desperate Somalis and Ethiopians to Yemen in small boats run by human traffickers operating from Somali ports.

Since the beginning of the year, 168 boats carrying 9,449 people have reached the Yemeni coast.

At least 47 people died while trying to reach Yemen by sea from Somalia during the same period, according to the UNHCR.

At least 590 people drowned and another 359 were reported missing last year as result of crossings gone wrong, often with traffickers forcing the migrants overboard, UNHCR said.

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