Geneva : The number of people arriving on the coast of Yemen who had been smuggled across the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa has more than doubled this year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced Tuesday.
As of April 22, over 15,000 people – mostly from Somalia and Djibouti – had arrived in the Yemeni port town of Aden, compared with 7,166 during the same period last year, the agency’s spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva.
Some 361 people have reportedly lost their lives or gone missing attempting the perilous crossing to Yemen this year.
UNHCR said the surge in arrivals is largely due to the continuing conflict in Somalia and the use of new smuggling routes from Somalia to Yemen and across the Red Sea from Djibouti.
“Many of the new arrivals also tell of crop losses due to drought, which forced them to leave home,” Ms. Pagonis noted.
Those making the journey on small, fast boats pay approximately $130-$150 to smugglers, while those travelling on larger, slower vessels pay $50-$70.
Conditions on the voyage appear to have improved, with a reduced number of deaths at sea in relation to the number of ships crossing the Gulf of Aden. Some new arrivals said they had received water and food during the crossing, while the boats appeared to be less crowded than in previous years, UNHCR said.
The agency reiterated its call for scaled up efforts to help those making the perilous passage across the Gulf of Aden and other waters.
It currently operates a $17 million programme to provide shelter, assistance and protection for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).