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Five migrants beaten to death and thrown overboard by Somali people smugglers – UN

Five migrants beaten to death and thrown overboard by Somali people smugglers – UN

The perilous people-smuggling across the Gulf of Aden, which this year alone has brought tens of thousands of Somalis and Ethiopians to Yemen, is claiming more lives, with five migrants savagely beaten to death and thrown overboard by the smugglers just this week, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

Those killed were travelling with a group of 205 others in two boats, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman William Spindler told a news briefing in Geneva. The bodies were later found by Yemeni fishermen and buried. Over the past year more than 360 people have died during the crossing, and over 150 are missing.

There have been several reported cases of smugglers attacking their passengers and throwing them overboard.

The latest tragedy occurred as Yemen, which Mr. Spindler said had in the past been “exemplary in keeping its doors open,” has started to detain and deport an increasing number of non-Somalis. Earlier this month, 126 Ethiopians were detained. Some have reportedly been deported back to Ethiopia, despite repeated UNHCR appeals for access to screen them.

When the latest 205 landed, they were immediately detained by the Yemeni authorities. After UNHCR intervention they were released 24 hours later and taken to an agency reception centre where they received food and medical assistance.

They said they fled because of increased suppression by the Islamic courts that control large swaths of Somalia, including Mogadishu, the capital. They reported that women are not allowed to work and some say militia forces, previously run by warlords, are the same people now operating under the Islamic courts.

“Others told us they felt compelled to leave Somalia in search of peace and better conditions for their families,” Mr. Spindler said, noting an increase in the number of families, rather than single men, arriving from Somalia.

“UNHCR continues to appeal to the Yemeni authorities to keep its doors open for people fearing persecution in their own country. It has offered to help screen new arrivals to ensure that refugees among them will be detected and not deported. Yemen has so far not taken up this offer,” he added.

Over the past year, more than 23,000 people have been recorded arriving on the coast of Yemen from Somalia. Yemen hosts some 88,000 refugees, most of them Somalis.