Over One Hundred More Refugees Arrive by Sea to Yemen

05.12.2008 | Yemen, Abyan and Shabwa governorates

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 this morning.  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 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 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 6:00 AM, 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.

 INTERVIEW with a Somali refugee — 12/04/08

AHWAR Reception Center

 “I was living in Mogadishu in a shanty house made of wood, a very poor house.  When the war worsened, my family and I had to leave to the outskirts of the city, where a lot of people have migrated.  Some organizations came to help the refugees, but it wasn’t enough.  So I left in order to help my family. I have one son.  He is with his mother in Mogadishu.We live under shelling everyday.  When I leave from my house, I don’t know if I will return safely or if I will die.  People are living in shelters that don’t provide protection against the rain and the sand.  We live a horrible life. 

During the journey from Mogadishu to Bossasso, there were a lot of checkpoints, where gunmen robbed us.  I stayed in Bossasso for eight months working as a porter, pushing a wheel barrow.  I earned some money, but not enough for the boat ride.  One day I found fifty dollars on the ground and that helped me make the trip.  I was lucky.  I paid 80 dollars for the trip. 

When we were landing in Yemen, one of the smugglers tried to dump all of us into the deep water far from the shore.   But another smuggler said “no, we have to leave them closer to shore.”  There are problems in other boats—people are often just dumped into the water—but thankfully there were none in ours.  No matter the hardships we are experiencing, I will not lose hope.”

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