Monday November 5, 2018
By Jason Burke Africa Correspondent and Abdalle Ahmed Mumin in Mogadishu
Drownings, disease and abuse fail to deter on route supposed to be safer option from east Africa
Migrants and refugees in a boat off Aden, Yemen. More than 100,000 people are expected to travel along part of the eastern route by the end of 2018. Photograph: Saleh Al-Obeidi/AFP/Getty Images
the boat’s engines stopped, the beatings began. The smugglers tried to
keep order by hitting the panicking passengers with rifle butts and
their fists.It was night, and the Yemeni coast was invisible, though
only a few hundred metres away across a choppy sea.“The boat floated for a while, then overturned. I had never seen the
sea before so I did not know how to swim. I prayed to God to save me. I
was lucky,” said Sahra Adam, a 31-year-old from a small town in southern
Thirty people are thought to have died in the previously unreported sinking off the coast of Yemen in August, many of them children.
The tragedy was among dozens that have occurred in recent months on
one of the busiest clandestine migration routes in the world. It leads
from poor and unstable countries in eastern Africa to Yemen, then on to wealthy Gulf states and sometimes Europe.
More than 100,000 people are expected to travel along at least part
of this “eastern route” by the end of this year, as many as are
anticipated to cross the Mediterranean, according to latest statistics. It is supposed to be the safer option, avoiding a long desert journey, but is lethal enough.
Local humanitarian officials and security experts say it is
impossible to know how many have been killed in incidents similar to
that described by Adam. Estimates range from 150 a year to 10 times as
“There can be up to five or 10 boats leaving every day, sometimes
many more … Even if there is just one migrant dying every day that’s too
many, but there are likely to be many more deaths that are unaccounted
for,” said Danielle Botti, a Nairobi-based analyst with the Mixed Migration Centre.