Yemeni fishermen blamed for African immigrant deaths

6 Jan
Yemeni fishermen in Aden (pictured above) allegedly use ill equipped boats to smuggle illegal immigrants into the country.
Photo by Malak Shaher
Yemen Times
Published:06-01-2011
SANA’A, Jan. 5 — Yemeni fishermen who are trying to earn a living were allegedly responsible for the death of illegal immigrants from Africa, Shuja’ Al-Mahdi, head of the Coast Guard Authority’s operational unit in Aden told the Yemen Times.On the first day of this year, two Yemeni fishermen attempted to make some money after their fishing attempts were in vain.The fishermen travelled to the Somali coast and overloaded their old boat with 46 illegal immigrants from Somalia and Ethiopia. The boat lacked basic safety standards and could not withstand angry ocean waves and winds. It capsized and sank in the sea.Only four of the Somali immigrants survived along with the two boat owners, said Al-Mahdi.

“The problem is that fishermen try to find another source of income by taking illegal immigrants from Somalia on their very tattered boats. Furthermore, they overload the boats with people who cannot swim,” said Al-Mahdi.

Illegal immigrants from poor African countries assume that paying USD100 or USD150 could buy them a better life in Yemen. However, they ultimately meet their destiny while at sea.

Al-Mahdi said that the two Yemeni and four Somalis were being detained at the Coast Guard Authority’s office at Ras Al-Ara, 100km west of Aden. He said they were waiting for the government to investigate the matter.

He said that the bodies of the deceased immigrants had not yet been found.

Nabil Othman, the deputy manager of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that the boat which carried the unfortunate immigrants started its journey from Bobcat port in Somalia and sank just three hours later.

Othman, who said that the UNHCR had direct access with the survivors, added that a fishing net of the boat carrying the 46 immigrants got stuck in the boat’s engine. This caused it to stop in the middle of the sea.

Othman confirmed Al-Mahdi’s comment that the boat lacked minimum safety standards. There was no rescue equipment on the boat for the passengers who were three times more than the boat’s capacity.

Abdulrahman Al-Barman, a lawyer at the National Organisation for Defending Rights and Freedoms (HOOD), told the Yemen Times that any illegal attempts to take immigrants from their country to Yemen is considered a crime.

The law holds responsible for any damages the persons that transport the immigrants. He said that punishment could be harsher if the smugglers were not following the basic standards of safety on boats that transport immigrants.

Al-Barman said that helping people enter Yemen illegally causes many economic and political problems for the country.

Immigrant’s frequent attempts to find a better life in Yemen are ongoing. In 2009, two similar incidents occured in Shuqra, near Aden, and in Abyan, that left more than 100 people dead.

The Ministry of Interior’s website confirmed that another boat carrying illegal immigrants sank near Lahj coast, 100km east of Aden, on the same day that the 46 immigrants travelled to Yemen.

Coast Guard Authority officials said that most illegal immigrants die during such dangerous trips. If they do not die during the trip, they arrive at their destination in bad health conditions that eventually causes chronic diseases.

The UNHCR has confirmed that there is at least 171,000 refugees in Yemen.

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