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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 March 2008, 22:09 GMT
Rise in people smuggled to Yemen
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva

A boat ferrying illegal immigrants to Yemen from Puntland state in Somalia, September 2007
Most of those crossing the Gulf of Aden are Somalis
The United Nations refugee agency says there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people crossing the Gulf of Aden in smugglers' boats.

The UNHCR said almost 9,000 people, most of them Somalis, arrived in Yemen's coastal waters in the first two months of this year.

That is three times as many as during the same period last year, the organisation said in a statement.

At least 113 people died and a further 200 are missing, presumed drowned.

Those making the crossing were crammed into 182 boats, the Geneva-based UNHCR said.

'Increasingly brutal'

It is a huge increase on the first two months of last year, when around 3,000 people made the crossing.

The UNHCR says most are from Somalia, but in trying to flee the continued violence there, they put themselves in the hands of unscrupulous - and the agency says - increasingly brutal people-smugglers.

Map showing Somalia and Yemen

Charges to cross the Gulf of Aden range from $50 to $150.

Passengers are regularly denied food and water, and beaten and robbed by the smugglers.

Witnesses told the refugee agency of a case on 20 February in which several boats arrived on Yemen's coast.

The smugglers on two of them forced their passengers into deep, rough seas. Of more than 300 people just 182 made it to shore.

The UN runs reception centres for those who do survive the perilous crossing - it plans to expand its operations in the coming months, to cope with the increased arrivals.

Somalia's trafficking boom town
28 Apr 04 |  Africa
Country profile: Somalia
01 Mar 08 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Yemen
14 Jul 07 |  Country profiles

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