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Friday, 23 February, 2001, 15:35 GMT
Somalis want boat people racket stopped

Elders in the northern Somali port city of Bossasso have asked the authorities to take urgent measures to prevent the illegal annual exodus to Yemen.

The request followed an incident last week, at the start of the best sailing weather, in which fourteen Somalis aboard a refugee boat drowned after being forced to jump overboard off the Yemen coast.

Hundreds of Somalis have lost their lives in recent years in attempts to flee to Yemen, after racketeers sent them to sea in overcrowded or unseaworthy boats or the crew abandoned them before reaching land.

Last year the authorities prevented the usual exodus by closing some of the racketeers' offices and impounding their boats. There are already more than fifty-thousand legal Somali refugees in Yemen, and many more illegal ones.

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