Nearly 28,000 Somalis have crossed to Yemen this year, either to escape fighting in Somalia or to seek work. The UNHCR says more than 1,400 have died – killed by smugglers or drowned at sea – including some 58 last week. The agency has published leaflets in Somali and Ethiopian languages, as well as radio warnings of the extreme risks.
Aid agencies say it is not just Somali refugees who are risking the crossing but also Ethiopians trying to raise themselves from poverty by seeking work and a better life in the Middle East, or Europe. Some of the would-be migrants end up stranded in the Somali port of Bossasso. Sheikh Abdulqader, chief of the elders in Bossasso told UNHCR: “We alone cannot prevent these desperate people from crossing.” “The support of the international community will help us curb a tragedy that has been going on for too long.”
A Somali diplomat in Yemen said he feared that 180 people had drowned in the past week. Somalia has not had a functioning national government for 16 years. The UN says some one million people are living rough, including 60% of the population of Mogadishu, following recent fighting.