Somali migrants tossed into sea off Yemen

Sept. 14, 2003 at 2:29 PM
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NEW YORK, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The United Nations refugee agency said at least 18 people drowned in the Gulf of Aden after being forced into the sea at gunpoint by smugglers.

The smugglers had promised to ferry the people to Yemen from the Horn of Africa.

The U.N.'s High Commission for Refugees told the BBC Sunday 55 of the illegal immigrants survived by swimming six miles to the Yemeni shore, and another 27 were missing.

Most of the refugees on the boat were Somalis and Ethiopians, and most of those who drowned were thought to be women and children.

The agency said it knew of many other such cases.

Last month, 30 Ethiopian and Somalian refugees trying to enter Yemen were also forced to jump off a boat in the Gulf of Aden, and at least 12 of them drowned, according to the UNHCR.

The refugees had paid the owner of the boat to take them to Yemen to escape difficult economic conditions in Somalia, the BBC said

Somalia has been in the grip of a civil war for more than a decade.

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