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IOM Launches Campaign on Dangers of Crossing Gulf of Aden in Smugglers' Boats

  • Lisa Schlein

The International Organization for Migration and the United Nations refugee agency are starting a radio campaign Saturday to try to dissuade migrants in the Horn of Africa from making the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden on smugglers boats.

The radio campaign is being run in the Somali language. Spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, Jemini Pandya says the campaign will target both migrants as well as host communities in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen.

"So, the information campaign is very much about targeting both the migrants and actually also the host communities in trying to encourage them to provide better protection and to be more understanding of what is actually driving these people to taking the risks and going through their territories and why they need the help. Often the smugglers are abandoning them in transit without food or water and often beating them up and abusing them physically," she said.

Every year, tens of thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers make the hazardous journey across the Gulf of Aden in search of a better life. They come mainly from the Ogaden region of Ethiopia and South Central Somalia.

They travel through the North East region of Somalia, Puntland, and onwards across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen in makeshift boats operated by unscrupulous smugglers.

IOM, UN and non-governmental organizations have been running campaigns for years to educate and inform migrants and asylum seekers from putting their lives in the hands of smugglers whose only interest is to make money.

These campaigns have not succeeded in discouraging people desperate to flee war and poverty from risking their lives. Despite this, Pandya says it is important to keep trying to dissuade them from their perilous course.

"You have to keep trying. You just cannot give up. You keep hearing every week people are dying or drowning or suffering great abuses even if they are not dying. So, we cannot just give up just say well okay these things, we do not know if they work. Maybe they do deter people. You just never know how many," she said.

IOM reports nearly 43,500 migrants and asylum seekers crossed the Gulf of Aden from Somalia this year. Of these, it says about 280 people have drowned or are missing at sea and presumed dead. In the latest incident earlier this week, 65 people were reported to be dead or missing in the Gulf of Aden.

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