December 05, 2008

More than 100 appeared this morning

Human smugglers from northern Somalia forced 114 people from a small fishing boat near the village of Al Qashaah on the southern coast of Yemen early on the morning of December 5. The passengers were Somali refugees fleeing war, destitution, and disease. Among them were ten children, including babies.

All the passengers survived the journey, although several people reported that the smugglers beat them with iron bars to force them overboard as the overcrowded boat approached the shore. Luckily, they disembarked in relatively shallow water.

This was the fifth boatload of Somali refugees and Ethiopian migrants to arrive from Somalia on Yemen's shores since Monday, December 1. A total of 533 people have landed. Twenty-eight people perished while attempting the journey, either dying from beatings, suffocation, or exposure while en route, or drowning after being forced overboard far from the shore.

In response to today's arrival, a mobile Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) team provided medical assistance and relief items, including water, food, and dry clothing to the exhausted—and in some cases dehydrated—refugees who had gathered in several groups roughly 100 meters apart along a main road. The refugees arrived on the shore at 6 a.m., after a 45-hour journey through the Gulf of Aden from Bossasso, in the Puntland region of northern Somalia. They then walked the few kilometers from the beach through barren and rocky terrain. Many were barefoot.