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Nearly three dozen more refugees drown in doomed bid to reach Yemen – UN

Nearly three dozen more refugees drown in doomed bid to reach Yemen – UN

At least 34 people fleeing Somalia across the Gulf of Aden drowned after being forced overboard by their smugglers in deep waters off the coast of Yemen, the United Nations refugee agency said today, citing its own information as well as reports from survivors and Yemeni officials.

The latest deaths add to the mounting toll seen in the region during the annual smuggling operations, which the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has repeatedly warned are run by unscrupulous individuals known for beating, robbing and drowning the Somalis and Ethiopians fleeing civil conflict or drought for Yemen.

The latest incident occurred early on Friday when three smuggling boats approached the Yemeni coast near Bir Ali following a two-day voyage from the Bosaso region of Somalia.

“Witnesses and survivors said two of the boats had begun dropping their passengers off near shore when they reportedly came under fire from Yemeni authorities and moved back out to sea,” UNHCR spokesman Rod Redmond told reporters in Geneva.

Although no one appeared to have been injured in the shooting, 22 people were later forced into the deeper water, where they drowned.

A third boat which approached the coast of Yemen early Friday afternoon forced its passengers overboard far from shore and another 12 people drowned. “Passengers aboard the third boat said they were beaten throughout the voyage from Somalia and that at least two Ethiopian men unable to endure the mistreatment jumped overboard,” Mr. Redmond said.

In all, the three boats that arrived Friday carried 365 people, including 234 Ethiopians and 131 Somalis, according to UNHCR. Three more boats carrying 270 Somalis and Ethiopians arrived on Sunday near Bir Ali. All were believed to have reached shore safely.

Since the beginning of this year, more than 5,600 people have landed on the Yemeni coast and at least 200 people have died. Many remain missing.