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200+ Boat People Feared Dead At Sea, Says UNHCR


More than 200 boat people feared dead at sea, says UN agency

Over 200 people attempting a perilous voyage across the seas are feared dead or missing after separate incidents off Turkey, the Canary Islands and Yemen in recent days, the UN refugee agency said today, calling for concerted action to avoid such tragedies.

Jennifer Pagonis, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that last Saturday, 51 people drowned when a boat carrying irregular migrants from Turkey to Greece sank in rough weather off the Turkish coast. Another 35 people are still missing and are presumed to have also drowned.

Last weekend, the Spanish media reported that up to 90 migrants were missing at sea after two separate incidents involving large canoes attempting to reach the Canary Islands from Senegal and from Western Sahara.

In Yemen, where 27,000 people, mostly Somalis and Ethiopians, have arrived by boat this year, UNHCR staff reported 31 people drowned or missing between 5 and 12 December.

These incidents brought the overall toll to 207 in one week, noted Ms. Pagonis.

The agency drew attention to the fact that tens of thousands of boat people risk their lives each year attempting to flee across the world's waterways. While most are migrants seeking a better life, some are also refugees fleeing persecution and violence.

At a two-day dialogue organized by UNHCR in Geneva this week, governments, non-governmental organisations and experts voiced support for strengthening efforts to ensure the protection of those who are on the move worldwide.

At a session devoted to rescue at sea, the agency urged participants to do everything possible to avoid tragedies such as those seen recently.

ENDS

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