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Cablegate: Embassy Sanaa

VZCZCXYZ0010
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHYN #2300 3460548
ZNY EEEEE ZZH (CCY ADDED CAPTION EFTO AD3BF07C MSI1567)
P 120548Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8621
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 0838
INFO RUCNSOM/SOMALI COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS E F T O SANAA 002300

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE NOFORN

EFTO

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ARP AND PRM
CAIRO FOR REFCOORD MARY DOETSCH
C O R R E C T E D C O P Y - ADDING CAPTION UNCLAS EFTO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM PREL PGOV YM
SUBJ: YEMENI SEAS MORE DANGEROUS THAN EVER FOR EAST AFRICAN
REFUGEES

1. (SBU/NF) SUMMARY: The number of East African refugees who have
died attempting to cross the Gulf of Aden to Yemen has nearly
doubled in 2007. While Yemeni Navy actions appear to have
contributed to the increase, a cooperative Yemen Coast Guard is
working to ameliorate it. As the number of refugees to cross is
unlikely to abate, the best way the USG can work to keep the number
of deaths from rising is to support continuing cooperation with the
YCG. END SUMMARY

2. (SBU/NF) Although the numbers of East African refugees crossing
the Gulf of Aden to Yemen from Somalia in 2007 are comparable to the
28,319 who crossed in 2006, the number of dead and missing has
almost doubled, from 630 in all of 2006 to 1116 as of the end of
November 2007. As Saado Quol, the head of the UNHCR's Aden office,
put it, "this is equivalent to the casualties of last summer's war
in Lebanon, but every year." In a December 9 meeting in Sanaa, Quol
told Conoff he believes there are two related reasons for the
increased numbers of deaths. At the beginning of the year, there
were more than ten incidents of the Yemeni Navy shooting at
smugglers' boats to discourage them from approaching the shore,
probably resulting in at least one refugee death by gunshot and far
more when panicked smugglers threw their human cargo overboard.
Later, to avoid the threat from the Yemeni Navy, smugglers adopted a
strategy of forcing the refugees to swim the last portion of the
journey, dumping them up to five miles from the shore. Often
dehydrated and weakened by the long journey, many refugees never
made it.

3. (SBU/NF) Unlike the Yemeni Navy, the Yemeni Coast Guard (YCG) has
shown real willingness to address the humanitarian concerns
surrounding the refugees' journey (NOTE: The YCG is part of the
Ministry of Interior, not the Ministry of Defense. END NOTE). The
YCG's Gulf of Aden commander, Col. Abdulrahman Mousa, confirmed to
Conoff during a November 26 meeting in Aden that the UNHCR has been
addressing YCG training courses since October 2007.

4. (SBU/NF) On the operational front, cooperation has also increased
between the YCG and Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150), operating in
the Gulf of Aden and ultimately under the command of the Combined
Forces Maritime Component Command (CFMCC) based in Bahrain. On the
heels of a visit to Yemen by CFMCC Commander VADM Cosgriff, CTF 150
and the YCG held a joint exercise from November 11-19. The exercise
was designed to use CTF 150's deep water capability and remote
tracking technology to provide the YCG with the real-time data
necessary to follow smuggling ships covertly. One major goal of this
exercise was to allow the refugees to disembark the smuggling ships
before the YCG approached them to avoid the passengers being thrown
overboard. During the exercise, the YCG apprehended two smuggler
ships and 10 Somali smugglers as they began their return trip
following the refugees' safe disembarkation.

5. (SBU/NF) While lauding the exercise, Quol stressed that the goal
of such efforts should not be to stop the flow of refugees, but to
make the journey safer by "ending the culture of impunity" for
ruthless smuggling gangs. He added that one key element of this was
successful prosecution of captured smugglers. Quol told Conoff that
smugglers often bribe their way out of jail, although the smugglers
captured during the recent exercise were officially charged on
November 28, and are expected to receive fines and short jail
terms.

6. (SBU/NF) COMMENT: The instability in Somalia that is driving most
of the refugee traffic to Yemen is unlikely to change in the near
term. The YCG takes the issue seriously, but its resources are
limited and the growing responsibility of protecting oil and gas
facilities along the Gulf of Aden promises to stretch them further.
Since the Yemeni Navy does not appear to be a willing partner on the
refugee issue, ongoing cooperation with the YCG (whether in terms of
training or material assistance) is currently the best way to
address the humanitarian issues involved with the crossings. A
conference on regional maritime refugee issues currently being
planned by CFMCC for early or mid-2008 is expected to include the
YCG as a key participant, and should be a good next step towards
expanding the relationship. END COMMENT.

SECHE

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