62 African Migrants, Crew Drown In Worst Sinking This Year

Written by Dana Sanchez


Sixty-two people drowned off Yemen’s coast in what the U.N.’s refugee agency described as the worst sinking incident in the region this year, NewsOfTheWorld reports.

Sixty migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia seeking a way out of war and poverty and two Yemeni crew members drowned in the incident last weekend, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Friday.

Yemen is considered a gateway to the Middle East and Europe. Thousands of Africans make the journey to Yemen in crowded boats each year, according to the report. Hundreds die along the way.

“The victims were reportedly buried by local residents after their bodies washed ashore near the Bab El Mandeb area off Yemen’s coast,” according to a UN statement.

So far this year 121 people have died making this particular crossing, the agency said.

Thousands have fled the Horn of Africa in recent years to escape war and poverty.

The route to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea is heavily used by migrants fleeing the Horn of Africa and, increasingly, refugees from the war in Syria.

“The tragedy is the largest single loss of life of migrants and refugees attempting to reach Yemen via the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden this year,” U.N. spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva, GulfNews reports.

UNHCR said it documented 16,500 refugee and migrant arrivals on the Yemeni coast during the first four months of 2014 alone, GulfNews reports. That number, however, was far less than the 35,000 who arrived in Yemen in the same period of 2013.

The drop in numbers arriving in Yemen may be due to a shift in migration towards North Africa and Libya due to unrest in Yemen and an illegal immigration crackdown in Saudi Arabia, Edwards told AFP.

Over the past five years, more than half a million people, mainly Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans, have crossed the dangerous Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to reach Yemen, Edwards said.

“Boats are overcrowded and smugglers have reportedly thrown passengers overboard to prevent capsizing or avoid detection,” he said.

Search-and-rescue officials estimate there have been hundreds of undocumented deaths in recent years. Thousands more migrants trying to reach Europe have died in other tragedies at sea.

The U.N. said Friday it was “working to prevent the alarming loss of life at sea and indifference to people desperately needing protection…We are reiterating our call for governments in the region to strengthen their search-and-rescue capacities,” Edwards said, according to GulfNews.