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Ethiopia : Shipwreck Kills Over a Dozen Ethiopian Migrants Trying to Reach Yemen

The New York Times
December 8,2014

SANA, Yemen — At least 21 migrants from Ethiopia drowned while trying to reach the coast of Yemen, according to the United Nations refugee agency, which has recorded a sharp increase this year in the number of people who have died while attempting the crossing, mainly from the Horn of Africa.

The Interior Ministry of Yemen said that the ship carrying the migrants sank on Saturday in rough seas off the southern coastal city of Al Mukha. In a statement, the ministry put the death toll at 70. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear. The United Nations said that it had based its toll on local reports from the Yemeni Red Crescent as well as a military brigade operating in the area.

At least 242 migrants have died this year in Yemeni waters, a number that is higher than those of the past three years combined, according to Nick Stanton, a spokesman in Yemen for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia have been making the journey in growing numbers over the past few years, fleeing drought, armed conflict and dismal economic conditions at home. They often face an environment just as unforgiving in Yemen, an impoverished country troubled by years of political turmoil and, in many places, armed conflict. Many of the migrants travel to Yemen hoping to reach the neighboring oil-rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In September, the United Nations recorded more than 12,700 arrivals to Yemen by boat, the highest number in a single month since the agency started keeping records more than a decade ago, Mr. Stanton said. The spike in the number of deaths appeared to reflect the growing “ruthlessness” of traffickers who were overcrowding boats for higher profits, he said.

In October, at least 64 migrants and three crew members died in the Gulf of Aden, south of Yemen, after traveling from Somalia. Another shipwreck, in June, killed at least 62 people.

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