UN: 74,000 Africans crossed Gulf of Aden in 2009

AP News
Posted: Dec 18, 2009 8:18 AM

The U.N. refugee agency says a record number of Africans fleeing war, droughts and poverty have crossed the Gulf of Aden into Yemen this year.

UNHCR says an estimated 74,000 Africans, mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia, have fled to Yemen as refugees or economic migrants. That's a 50 percent higher than in 2008.

Most cross the Gulf of Aden in rickety and overcrowded vessels run by smugglers.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said 309 people drowned in capsized boats or were killed by smugglers in 2009. Nearly 600 died in 2008.

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Mahecic said Friday that Ethiopians were the largest group of travelers.

He said the agency was concerned that many are being put in jail upon arrival in Yemen, or are deported without an asylum hearing.