It’s that time of year when many in Somalia attempt to cross the Gulf of Aden, hoping for a better life in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East. However, it’s often a perilous journey due to smugglers and the risk of capsizing.
Astrid Van Genderen Stort is a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR. From Geneva, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about a tragic end to a recent attempt to cross from Bosaso to Yemen.
“The situation has been for months now very difficult…during this period when the seas are calmer, a lot of boats are coming. Over the past week, we had several boats arriving and again, on Wednesday, two boats approached the coast of Yemen. And while approaching, five people were beaten up by the smugglers and thrown overboard. And later these people were found by fishermen and buried. The remaining 205 people, who were on the boats, landed in Yemen, but were immediately detained by the Yemeni authorities. It took us about 24 hours to get them released,” she says.
During her interview with VOA, the UNHCR spokesperson received word that three other boats had just capsized off the coast of Yemen. Few details were available.
The UNHCR says it’s seeing more families trying to make the journey. Usually most of those crossing to Yemen are single men. Also, many are saying that they left Somalia due to repression by the Islamic Courts Union, who controls much of the country, and fears of war between Somalia and Ethiopia.