New York: Expressing concern over Somalis fleeing across the Gulf of Aden in hazardous conditions to reach Yamen, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) has asked the international community to help tackle the causes for annual exodus by tackling poverty and conflicts.
“The flow across the Gulf of Aden to seek safety or a better life has temporarily halted because seas are too rough to make the crossing in July and August,” UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters yesterday.
Still, every year between September and the following June, “irregular travel to Yemen has become increasingly difficult as a result of increased crackdowns on smugglers in Somalia’s Bosaso region and heightened security patrols along the Yemen coastline,” she said.
For those refugees who do secure a trip, the risks of death or sickness have increased. Because of a need to find new routes, trips are more indirect and take around three days rather than the regular two, she said.
The treatment of the refugees by smugglers who have managed to remain active despite the crackdown is increasingly horrendous, Pagonis noted.
After paying $50, many refugees are forced to disembark while still in deep water, where most are then beaten with clubs, drowned or are attacked by sharks.
The solution lies not only in cracking down on smugglers, but on tackling the root causes of persecution, poverty and conflict that drive so many people to leave their homes and risk such perilous sea journeys, Pagonis said.