AFRICANGLOBE – At least sixty migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia along with two Yemeni smugglers drowned on May 31 in the worst such tragedy off the coast of Yemen this year, the UN has said.
“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,” Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the refugee agency UNHCR, said on Friday.
The UN agency said it was still seeking information about the tragedy, but had confirmed that the boat sank last Saturday.
“The victims were reportedly buried by local residents after their bodies washed ashore near the Bab El Mandeb area off Yemen’s coast,” Edwards said, adding that the UNHCR did not know where the boat began it journey.
The agency said they were working on measures to prevent the loss of life at sea and called on governments in the region to strengthen their search-and-rescue capacities.
AFP news agency reported that bad weather conditions off Dhubab, at the entrance to the Bab El Mandeb waterway between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea had caused the accident.
The UNHCR points out that at least 121 people have died so far this year trying to reach Yemen.
The agency said it had documented the arrival of 16,500 refugees and migrants on the Yemeni coast during the first four months of 2014 alone. At least 35,000 people had arrived in Yemen during the same period last year.
On Friday, a Tunisian official said the coast guard had intercepted a boat off Zarzis, in southern Tunisia, loaded with more than 200 migrants who left from Libya hoping to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
The migrants, including 104 Nigerians, 23 Senegalese and 16 Tunisians, were taken to Zarzis port on Thursday, Mongi Slim of the Tunisian Red Crescent.
Yemen is mainly used as a transit country, with African migrants often aiming to move on to neighbouring oil-rich Gulf nations to find work.
Yemen is believed to have taken in up to two million refugees, mostly undocumented migrants from Africa.
Death In The Desert