US Navy Photo
A US Naval vessel participating in counterpiracy operations off the Somali coast rescued 30 Somali men, women, and children approximately 100 miles of the Somali coast on 25 March. The Somalis had been drifting for four days after their boat’s motors stopped working. The Somalis were returned to Somalia.
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An Informal Meeting of EU Defence Ministers was held in Mallorca last week to discuss the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) established by the Treaty of Lisbon.
A decision was taken at the meeting to expand the objectives of Operation Atalanta to include the surveillance and control of Somali ports where pirate ships are based. This decision will be implemented later in the month of March as weather conditions in the region improve. The decision represents a potentially significant expansion of the EU’s anti-piracy operations.
Also attending the Informal Meeting were the ministers of defence from Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia. A side meeting was conducted with regard to improving co-operation in matters of security in the Euro-Mediterranean zone. The side talks pertained to the so-called “5+5 Western Mediterranean Defence Initiative” or more simply the “5 + 5 Initiative”.
Spanish Minister of Defence, Carme Chacón, who chaired the Informal Meeting said in regard to the meetings with the defence ministers from the five Maghreb countries:
“Spain is very clear on the fact that the Mediterranean is a sea of opportunities, but if we let our guard down then it can become a sea of problems – and we share this vision with all the associations we are involved in. At the moment it is a sea of peace and tranquillity, but both North and South must work together to tackle the dangers and new threats of the 21st Century, such as international terrorism, drug smuggling and organised crime. We must put our surveillance and maritime safety capacities into action in order to combat these threats, which could become an area of concern or a problem if we do not deal with them properly. And Spain will not forget this. In terms of the initiative of bringing together the countries of Europe and the Maghreb, we would like it to be not just the Spanish Presidency that sees to hold these meetings, but for the EU to be able to sit down regularly with these countries to discuss issues relating to the Mediterranean Sea, which must carry on being a source of opportunities rather than one of concern.”
Click here, here, here, and here for Press Releases from the Informal Meeting.
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Filed under Algeria, European Union, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean, Libya, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Morocco, News, Somalia, Spain, Tunisia
The Los Angeles Times has a new article on the refugee situation in Yemen.
“… The poorest country in the Arab world, Yemen can barely accommodate its own, much less the dispossessed from other lands. ‘Right now, we are torn,’ said Ali Muthana Hassan, Yemen’s deputy foreign minister. ‘We have many problems of our own in Yemen — we have war, Al Qaeda, our own citizens do not have jobs. But we have a moral obligation to accept them. And right now, we don’t have a choice. Next year, more will come. Many more will come.’”
Click here for Los Angeles Times article.
Grotius.fr : “Au Yémen, l’année 2009 a été marquée par un record des flux migratoires en provenance de la corne africaine : plus de 77.000 entrées sur le territoire, des Somaliens, mais un nombre d’Ethiopiens en forte augmentation. [***]
Et les migrants non somaliens devraient avoir beaucoup de difficultés à légaliser leur situation. Les trois principales agences en charge de la question des migrants au Yémen, le PAM, le HCR et l’OIM, ont accepté d’aborder pour Grotius.fr ce dossier «brûlant». Entretien réalisé à Sanaa par François-Xavier Trégan avec Gian Carlo Cirri, Directeur du Programme Alimentaire Mondial au Yémen, Samer Haddadin, Senior Protection Officer, Haut Commissariat pour les Réfugiés au Yémen et Stefano Tamagnini, Directeur de l’Organisation Internationale pour les Migrations au Yémen.”
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The Somaliweyn Website reported that Puntland authorities have arrested over 100 intending migrants:
“‘The exact number of the people whom we have arrested is 110, and they are from different nations in Africa, but the leading numbers of the people are from our immediate neighbour Ethiopia, the entire of these people were intending to cross the wide waters between Yemen and Puntland state, and just before they have accomplished their dreams they were apprehended by our security personnel’ said Musse Ahmed Abdurahman the police commissioner of Puntland state speaking to Somaliweyn Website via the wire. The Police commissioner has also added that lately the number of the persons intending to illegally cross the water between Yemen and Puntland has been rapidly mounting….”
IRIN reported: “‘We have begun to force would-be migrants back to their homes for their own safety. I would rather have them back in their homelands than dying at sea,’ said Muse Ghelle Yusuf, governor of Puntland’s Bari region. He said thousands of Ethiopians and Somalis are currently in Bosasso, the commercial capital of Puntland, intending to cross into Yemen.
‘Our estimate is that as of today [29 December 2009] there are 4,000-5,000 migrants in and around Bosasso,’ Yusuf said, noting that 1,000-1,700 have been arriving in the area daily.”
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Video Report by France24 reporters Cyril VANIER and Karim HAKKI.
“We’re standing on a beach in southern Yemen, early one November morning. On the opposite side of the Gulf of Aden lies the Horn of Africa, one of the most troubled regions on earth, racked by civil war and poverty. Those who can pay for their way out, make their way to Yemen. Seventy dollars buys them a spot on the next boat out. Many are beaten on the way, sometimes women are raped, and all too often – passengers drown. Those who reach Yemen will have to start a new life from scratch. The sea is calm this morning, it is high season for illegal boats crossing into Yemen. Last night, we heard a motor boat travelling parallel to the beach. There was no light, no noise on board except for the engine: probably a smuggler using the cover of night to carry his human cargo….”
Click here for link to podcast.
The UNHCR released its most recent estimates of the numbers of Africans who have crossed the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea to Yemen in 2009. UNHCR believes over 74,000 people made the crossing which is estimated to be a 50% increase over last year.
Ethiopians (42,000) now make up the largest group of migrants making the crossing. In previous years Somalis were the largest group.
“According to the latest UNHCR statistics, at least 309 people drowned or did not survive the trip this year. In 2008, some 590 people died during the crossing. Many more people went missing and are presumed dead. The mixed migration route through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea is presently the busiest and the deadliest one in the world.”
“While virtually all arriving Somalis approach the two, strategically positioned reception centres in Mayfaa and Ahwar, where they receive protection and assistance, only some 9,000 Ethiopians went to these venues this year. Most press on towards the Persian Gulf states in search of job opportunities.”
Click here for UNHCR press release.
The UNHCR estimates that over 50,000 migrants in approximately 994 boats have crossed the Gulf of Aden from Somalia to Yemen so far this year. UNHCR says there has been a 50% increase in crossings compared with the same period last year. September and October are usually the busiest months due to favourable sea conditions.
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UNHCR has issued a new warning about the steadily deteriorating situation in Somalia that is forcing thousands of Somalis to flee fighting. 250,000 Somalis have been forced out of their homes in Mogadishu since May, many are seeking shelter in internal camps and in neighboring countries.
UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said that “[u]sing unscrupulous smugglers, thousands risk their lives and take the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to reach Yemen or the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe”.
“So far this year over 900 boats carrying around 47,000 people have attempted to get to Yemen from the Horn of Africa, with 322 people drowned or presumed dead, and just last week 16 people died and 49 others are thought to have drowned in the Gulf of Aden.”
Click here for UNHCR statement and here for article.
The UNHCR reports that at least 16 migrants are dead and 49 others missing and presumed dead in the Gulf of Aden in three separate incidents over the past two days.
The UNHCR estimates that 860 boats carrying 43,586 migrants have crossed the Gulf of Aden from Somalia to Yemen so far this year. UNHCR estimates that at least 273 migrants have drowned.
In one of the incidents a Belgian warship on an EU anti-piracy patrol rescued 38 migrants from a sinking boat. The Belgian ship disembarked the survivors at the Yemeni port of Mulkalla.
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The Yemen Observer reports that many Somali refugees are beginning to cross the Gulf of Aden from Djibouti to the Dhubab coast of Yemen on the Red Sea rather than crossing from Bossaso in northern Somalia to the southern coasts of Yemen. The route is much shorter than the route from Bossaso.
“Some newly arrived Somali refugees from Djibouti said they pay US$ 200 per each passenger to be paid to smugglers to smuggle them to Djibouti and then pay US$ 50 to smugglers in Djibouti to bring them to Yemen compared to US$ 50 being paid to smugglers in Bossaso to bring them to Yemen.”
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Garowe Online, a Somali news agency, reports that police authorities in Puntland, a self-declared autonomous region of Somalia, are attempting to take action to prevent human traffickers from transporting migrants across the Gulf of Aden.
“The two locations, Marero and Shimbirale, have been notorious hotspots where human traffickers have conducted their illegal business of transporting migrants across the Gulf of Aden to the shores of Yemen.”
“In recent weeks, Puntland’s commercial port city of Bossaso, which is located along the Gulf of Aden, has been teeming with Somali and foreign migrants, mostly from neighboring Ethiopia. It is suspected that most of these people are preparing to voluntarily pay to take the dangerous journey across the Gulf of Aden.”
“Puntland security sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Garowe Online that the order to establish police checkpoints came from the office of President Abdirahman Mohamed ‘Farole.’”
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Hundreds of Somalis and Ethiopians have reached Yemen since the beginning of September and according to the UNHCR many thousands of additional Somalis are waiting in northern Somalia to make the journey.
Somali pirates are also responsible for smuggling refugees and migrants from Somalia to Yemen. They reportedly charge approximately US$100 per person.
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UNHCR estimates that approximately 11,000 people crossed the Gulf of Aden from Somalia to Yemen over the most recent May-July period, the most dangerous time to cross due to weather conditions. This compares with an estimated 4,000 who crossed in the same period in 2008 and 200 in 2007.
“Nearly 300 migrants have died or gone missing this year after being forced overboard far from shore, and more than 1,000 drowned while making the voyage in 2008, the UNHCR says.”
“[Roberta Russo, UNHCR spokeswoman from Somalia] said there were more than 5,000 people wanting to leave for Yemen who were waiting at the northern Somali port of Bossaso for the weather to improve next month.”
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The UNHCR reports that ongoing fighting within Somalia has pushed approximately 12,000 Somalis to the northern port town of Bossaso where most are preparing to attempt a crossing of the Golf of Aden in September when more favourable weather conditions will likely be present.
“Last year, more than 50,000 new arrivals reached Yemen’s shores a 70 percent increase from 2007. The trend has continued during the first six months of this year, with around 30,000 new arrivals the total for the whole of 2007.”
“More than 1,000 people drowned en route in 2008 as they were thrown overboard or forced to disembark too far from the shore by unscrupulous smugglers. So far this year, almost 300 have died or gone missing.”
Click here for UNHCR statement.
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