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Over 1,400 Lost Lives In Gulf Of Aden In 2007

Over 1,400 lost their lives fleeing across Gulf of Aden this year, says UN agency

More than 1,400 people seeking to make better lives for themselves by making the perilous journey from the eastern coast of Africa to Yemen via the Gulf of Aden have died this year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported today.

This includes over 150 who lost their lives just this past weekend, UNHCR spokesperson Astrid van Genderen Stort said at a press briefing in Geneva today, noting that "once again, the Gulf of Aden has taken its toll."

On Saturday, at least 58 people - 54 Ethiopians and four Somalis - were confirmed dead, while 37 people remain missing after a boat carrying 148 people capsized off the coast of Yemen. Fifty-three passengers made it to shore, Ms. van Genderen Stort said.

She noted that in an incident on Sunday, a boat carrying 270 people reportedly hit a rock near a Yemeni beach, breaking into several pieces. At least 173 people made it to shore, but many of the remaining people are feared to have drowned, including several children who were on board.

"So far only two bodies have been buried, while many others have reportedly started washing ashore," she stated, adding that "at this point, we do not know the total number of the dead."

Passengers from the second boat told UNHCR they were beaten, and that one man who could not stand the abuse any longer jumped overboard and drowned.

The agency reported that the number of people who died in the past four months while making the dangerous journey increased massively - with 264 dying in September, 347 in October, 205 in November and 186 so far in December.

Ms. van Genderen Stort added that while this year has been particularly tragic, over 28,300 people made it to shore in Yemen. More than 18,500 sought UNHCR's help, while some 10,000 were taken care of in the refugee camp in Kharaz, near Aden.

The agency has increased its efforts in Yemen this year under a $7 million initiative that involves additional staff, increased field presence, more assistance, provision of additional shelter for refugees in Kharaz refugee camp, and training programmes.


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