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    Somalia to Yemen - The treacherous journey !

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    Tom Petersen

    by Tom Petersen

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    Thousands of Somali and Ethiopian Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Migrants 'risk death' crossing the Gulf of Aden, in order to escape from conflict, violence, drought and poverty. 'Boatloads of people' routinely arrive on Yemen's southern shores... the majority being Somalis who are fleeing war and persecution at home. Passengers are often 'violently abducted by the people smugglers'.

    During the year 2007, almost 30,000 took the dangerous voyage, to seek relative safety in Yemen. More than 1,400 dead and missing were reported. During the first five months of 2008, more than 20,000 arrived in Yemen. Many others, never made it to shore 'alive' !

    The treacherous boat trip from Somalia to Yemen is fraught with danger. Boats that are designed to carry 30 to 40 people at the most, are packed with more than 100 passengers, many of them are stuck in small windowless storage places in the hold. People are forced to sit in the same position without moving, and are, in the large majority of cases, deprived of food and water for the two to three days that it takes to complete the perilous journey. The people smugglers are extremely brutal, and anyone who dares to move are beaten with sticks, pipes, belt buckles, and sometimes, rifle buts and knives. Conditions are even worse for people stuck in the holds of the boat... tiny, windowless spaces that are meant for storage. Twenty people or more are crowded in these spaces, and are literally 'sitting on top of each other'.

    Landing on the Yemen coast is very dangerous... and to avoid being caught or shot at by the Yemeni Forces... many boats arrive at night, and do not come close to the shore. The smugglers force the passengers to jump into deep water. Many people 'drown' because they are unable to swim, or unable to move because of numbness. Others, because of 'being disoriented' are unable to find the coast.