Last updateDim, 01 Fév 2015 9am

Refugee agency urges int'l action to curb migrant tragedies

New York, US - The UN refugee agency on Tuesday urged the international community and civil society to develop comprehensive responses to reduce and ultimately prevent the hazardous migrant journeys, which had continued to claim lives.

The agency's spokesman, Mr. Adrian Edwards said it was 'deeply saddened' by the boat accident in the Gulf of Aden over the weekend involving refugees and migrants.

The boat was reportedly carrying 77 men, women and children from Somalia (31) and Ethiopia (46).

He said 33 people were rescued, but the remaining 44 were still missing and feared drowned, describing it as the worst of such incident this year.

He said that the boat had departed from Bossasso in the north coast of Somalia on Friday 7 March, but it ran into strong winds and high waves off the coast of the southern Yemeni governorate of Shabwa.

Mr. Edwards disclosed that on Sunday morning, a marine patrol by UNHCR partner organisation, Society for Humanitarian Solidarity (SHS), found 33 survivors.

'With one exception, all the survivors were male. They were brought ashore at Majdaha by SHS staff and given first aid, food, water and clothing before being taken to a transit centre.

'One 45-year old man from Southern Somalia said he had lost his two children in the tragedy, unable to reach them in the dark,' he stated.

The spokesperson said the sole surviving woman lost her teenage daughter. She said the smugglers had refused to stop the boat when it began taking on water.

He said that though the number of people making the perilous journey had been declining from 107,532 arrivals in 2012 to 65,319 in 2013, the crossings were continuing, resulting in hundreds of undocumented casualties in recent years.

'Nonetheless, the crossings continue and lives are being lost. And this calls for all stakeholders – governments, international and regional organisations, the donor community and civil society to develop comprehensive responses to reduce and ultimately prevent these hazardous journeys,' Mr. Edwards stressed.

The agency said over the past five years, more than half-a-million people, mainly Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans, had crossed the waters of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to reach Yemen in overcrowded boats.

In addition to countless reports of mistreatment, abuse, rape and torture by unscrupulous trafficking rings, smugglers are also often reported to throw passengers overboard in order to prevent capsizing or avoid detection.

Pana 12/03/2014