39 illegal immigrants drown off Yemen

39 illegal immigrants drown off Yemen

SANA’A – At least 39 African illegal immigrants drowned and 212 others were missing after smugglers forced them to jump from a boat at gunpoint, off Yemen’s southern coast, said a UN agency.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the victims were part of a group of 349 Ethiopians and Somalis crossing from Somalia to Yemen on three boats. UNHCR said that 98 people made it to the shore, and 39 bodies were found near Belhaf on the southern coast of Yemen on Sunday.Most of the dead were Ethiopians and Somalis.Survivors said that one of the boats that had set off from Somalia developed mechanical problems, but managed to cross the Gulf of Aden with help from the smugglers on the other two boats.Close to the Yemeni shore, the faster two boats rushed ahead in an attempt to avoid the coast guards, and quickly dropped their passengers off.The UNHCR said: “However, the smugglers on the third boat could not get close to shore.Not wanting to be left behind with a broken boat, they forced all the passengers overboard at gunpoint.”UNHCR field officer Mohammed Godboudin said: “The boat was still in deep sea when they were thrown overboard and only those who could swim managed to reach safety.”It was not clear when the boats left Somalia.Every year, thousands of Somali immigrants fleeing violence or seeking a better life arrived in Yemen on boats through the Gulf of Aden, wishing to reach Arab countries or Europe.Smugglers frequently beat their passengers or forced them overboard while still far from shore, sometimes with their hands tied behind their backs.Yemen had more than 80 000 registered refugees, almost all of them Somalis who had arrived since civil strife began in Somalia in 1991.- Nampa-SapaUNHCR said that 98 people made it to the shore, and 39 bodies were found near Belhaf on the southern coast of Yemen on Sunday.Most of the dead were Ethiopians and Somalis.Survivors said that one of the boats that had set off from Somalia developed mechanical problems, but managed to cross the Gulf of Aden with help from the smugglers on the other two boats.Close to the Yemeni shore, the faster two boats rushed ahead in an attempt to avoid the coast guards, and quickly dropped their passengers off.The UNHCR said: “However, the smugglers on the third boat could not get close to shore.Not wanting to be left behind with a broken boat, they forced all the passengers overboard at gunpoint.”UNHCR field officer Mohammed Godboudin said: “The boat was still in deep sea when they were thrown overboard and only those who could swim managed to reach safety.”It was not clear when the boats left Somalia.Every year, thousands of Somali immigrants fleeing violence or seeking a better life arrived in Yemen on boats through the Gulf of Aden, wishing to reach Arab countries or Europe.Smugglers frequently beat their passengers or forced them overboard while still far from shore, sometimes with their hands tied behind their backs.Yemen had more than 80 000 registered refugees, almost all of them Somalis who had arrived since civil strife began in Somalia in 1991.- Nampa-Sapa

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