Ethiopia + 2 more

Somalia-Yemen: Somali government hopes Puntland can help stem flow of would-be migrants

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SANAA, 30 April 2007 (IRIN) - The Somali consulate in Aden, southern Yemen, says the number of smugglers' boats carrying African migrants from Somalia to Yemen could decrease in future as the authorities in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, northeastern Somalia, step up anti-trafficking actions.

"Somali forces in Puntland would be able to reduce the number of smugglers' boats reaching Yemen," he said. However, despite the Puntland authorities forming a task force in December, during 2007, reports indicate that at least 200 people died off the coast of Somalia.

Puntland has said many times that it is tackling the smugglers. It has made a number of arrests and confiscated boats and trucks but says it needs international help if it is to do more.

Somalia's consul-general in Aden, Hussein Haji Ahmed, told IRIN that Somali forces are being trained to stop smuggling operations and illegal fishing. He said monitoring operations should be beefed up to outflank the smugglers.

Ahmed made the disclosure after the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said on 24 April that 18 African migrants had died on a trip from Somalia to Yemen. Eight people were thrown overboard and 10 more died of asphyxia and dehydration, the agency said in a statement.

"The latest incidents involved two boats - one arrived at Buroom fishing port in Yemen carrying 140 passengers, including 60 Somalis and 80 Ethiopians; the other arrived 25km west of Mukalla city in the governorate of Hadramaut carrying 10 Somalis," the UNHCR added.

According to the UNHCR, the Yemeni authorities have taken 35 Ethiopians into custody, while the Somalis were taken to the UNHCR's Mayfa reception centre.

Lack of awareness of dangers

The Somali consul blamed lack of awareness for the dangers of smuggling in his country and in Yemen.

"Awareness of the danger of smuggling should be raised in Somalia among citizens. Even in Yemen, awareness is confined only to the al-Basateen area [a predominantly Somali area] in the governorate of Aden," he said.

Ahmed said the Somali consulate constantly receives inquiries on missing migrants who try to enter Yemen.

"This problem is so horrible we can't imagine it. After their arrival, migrants go through hard times. The voyage causes them ailments and diseases," he said, adding that some survivors get injured when they are forced to disembark in rocky areas.

The UNHCR estimates that since the beginning of 2007 more than 5,600 people have landed on the Yemeni coast and at least 200 have died, with many others missing and presumed dead.

In 2006, 330 would-be migrants died and another 300 were reported missing, believed dead.

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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]