At Least 26 People Drown Off Yemen’s Coast
At Least 26 People Drown Off Yemen’s Coast in Smuggling Incident – UN
The United Nations refugee agency has reported that at least 26 people making the perilous voyage from the Horn of Africa to Yemen earlier this week have died, and a number remain missing, after being forced overboard in the Gulf of Aden.
Survivors of the incident told the UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR that all 120 passengers on the boat were forced overboard at gunpoint after the vessel was stopped off shore on Tuesday.
“They said those who refused were pushed and beaten. Some were killed. Survivors said they had earlier been assured by the smugglers that a smaller vessel would take them ashore, but none arrived,” according to an agency press release.
Twenty-six bodies were recovered as of Wednesday morning and 20 were still missing. Some 74 survivors made it to shore and were taken to UNHCR’s reception centre at Ahwar.
Tuesday’s incident comes after UNHCR reported that calmer weather in the Gulf of Aden had led to an increase in people smuggling in August, as compared to the same period last year.
UNHCR believes the recent upsurge is due to a number of factors, including continuing strife and displacement in Somalia, the opening of new smuggling routes across the Gulf of Aden, as well as a perceived decline in coastal surveillance during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which began in early September.
So far this year, almost 25,860 people have arrived in Yemen aboard smugglers’ boats. More than 200 have died and at least 225 remain missing. At the same time last year, there were 9,153 arrivals, 267 dead and 118 missing.