IOM, UNHCR Condemn Refugee and Migrant Drownings Off Coast of Yemen

Humanitarian Emergencies, Missing Migrants

Geneva - IOM, the UN Migration Agency, and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, are outraged and saddened at the drownings of at least 30 refugees and migrants off the coast of Aden, Yemen earlier this week.

Survivors of the incident have reported to UN and partner staff that an over-crowded boat packed with at least 152 Somalis and Ethiopians departed 23 January from the Al Buraiqa coast in Aden in a boat headed across the Gulf of Aden towards Djibouti. The vessel is believed to have been operated by unscrupulous smugglers who were attempting to take refugees and migrants to Djibouti, while also trying to extort more money from these refugees and migrants. The boat capsized amid reports of gunfire being used against the passengers.

Of the passengers on board, 101 were Ethiopian and 51 were Somali. At least 30 people have died in this tragic incident.

IOM and partners are working with the Yemeni Coast Guard to further understand the incident. Patrolling teams of IOM, DRC and Intersos have been providing emergency assistance to survivors including medical assistance, food, water and psycho-social support services.

“As we have been saying for almost five years now, the preservation of human life is our utmost priority everywhere,” said IOM Director William Lacy Swing in Davos, Switzerland, today. “Yemen is no exception; we are deeply troubled by reports of this latest incident.”

IOM and UNHCR have long been warning that prolonged conflict and insecurity in Yemen exposes vulnerable refugees and migrants to a heightened risk of human rights violations including arbitrary arrest, detention, trafficking and deportation.

With Yemen a traditional transitory and migratory hub in the region, more than 87,000 migrants and refugees risked their lives on the high seas in 2017, seeking to reach Yemen from the Horn of Africa by boat, despite prevailing conflict and rapidly deteriorating humanitarian conditions. To raise awareness about the horrendous risks and dangers in Yemen, UNHCR launched a regional awareness campaign titled “Dangerous Crossings” last year aiming to inform those contemplating the journey in countries of origin and transit.

IOM and UNHCR – together with partners including Intersos and DRC – are members of the Mixed Migration Working Group in Yemen which has been responding to the needs of migrants and refugees in Yemen. The Group is appealing for more urgent support to respond to the needs of those most vulnerable in Yemen and to actively pursue solutions for refugees and migrants.

Arabic press release accessible here.

For more information, please contact Joel Millman at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 79 103 8720, Email: [email protected]