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14 refugees die at smugglers' hands

May 31, 2011 at 2:38 PM

SANAA, Yemen, May 31 (UPI) -- At least 14 refugees died at the hands of smugglers as they traveled from Somalia to Yemen, the United Nations said Tuesday.

The U.N. refugee agency said in a release issued in New York that 10 Ethiopians suffocated when the smugglers crammed them and about 15 others in the boat's engine room with no ventilation. Survivors claimed the bodies of the dead were tossed into the sea.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said there were reports the boat carried as many as 115 passengers as it set out early Sunday from Bossaso in northern Somalia.

Concerned the Yemeni navy would spot them, the smugglers allegedly forced the rest of the passengers to get out of the boat too far from land and four more people drowned before they could reach shore, the U.N. release said. Two of bodies had been recovered.

"We condemn the unscrupulous and inhuman treatment of refugees and others who are desperately seeking to flee the violence, human rights abuses and seriously debilitating life options in the Horn of Africa," said Erika Feller, assistant high commissioner for protection.

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