The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Tim Shenk,Press Officer,Direct: 212-763-5764,E-mail:,

Twenty-Nine Bodies Found on Yemen Beach

MSF Assists Survivors of Deadly Sea Crossing From Horn of Africa


A team from the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors
Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) found eight dead bodies
yesterday, September 9, on the beach of Wadi Al-Barak in Yemen (30 kms
east of Ahwar). Refugees and migrants, they had escaped from conflict
and extreme poverty in the Horn of Africa by trying to cross the Gulf
of Aden. During the rest of the day, 21 more dead bodies washed up on
the coast, raising the total death toll to 29 people. According to
survivors' accounts, 10 more people died during the trip.

At 4:30am, the MSF team was alerted to a new arrival of people on the
coast, the seventh in nine days. When the team reached the beach, they
found a group of survivors and eight dead bodies. The survivors told
MSF staff that the boat arrived in the middle of the night and stopped
far from the coast in deep waters. The passengers were forced by
extreme violence to jump into the water. Most of the people who died
did not know how to swim.

The survivors explained that the smugglers were extremely brutal during
the trip. According to their testimonies, up to 10 people died during
the journey; several people were asphyxiated and three, including two
children, were thrown into the sea by the smugglers. About 120 people
were in the boat at the beginning of the journey.

"The smugglers promised us in Bossaso (Somalia) that we would be
transported to Yemen in small groups with new, fast boats and with
proper food and water," said a 23-year-old Somali from Mogadishu,
Somalia's capital." However, the boat was an old one. They pointed at
us with their weapons and forced us to jump inside. We were 120 people,
overcrowded; the trip took two days. We did not receive food or water;
some of us were placed in the hull; several people died because of
asphyxia, some others were thrown overboard, among them two children,"
he said. "In order to intimidate us, they beat us heavily with their
belts. One of the smugglers threw petrol on us and showed off his

After being given first aid on the beach, the refugees went to the
Ahwar Reception Centre, where MSF teams provided medical assistance and

"With the previous six boat arrivals, people had been treated humanely
by the smugglers," said MSF Head of Mission Alfonso Verdu. "We thought
that the trend might have changed, until today. The horrific cases of
2007 are being repeated again. People have been through terrible
things. One woman lost her three young children. A young Ethiopian
witnessed his 70 year-old father being thrown into the sea at night,
and only recovered his dead body the next morning. The majority told us
that they had no option but to flee from the violence exerted against
them in Somalia and Ethiopia, even though they knew about the danger of
the trip," he said. "We were expecting a massive arrival of refugees
and migrants - the 2008 figures are double those of 2007. But it is
clearly not only the numbers that are increasing: the violence has
tripled since the beginning of September."

MSF started its project in September 2007, providing medical and
humanitarian assistance to refugees and migrants arriving on the Yemeni
coast at the Abyan and Shabwa Governorates. During 2008, MSF has
provided assistance to over 3,800 people, 580 of them in so far this

In June 2008, MSF released a report, entitled "No Choice,"
to document the conditions of the perilous journey and to call for
increased assistance for the thousands of refugees, asylum seekers, and
migrants fleeing their home countries.

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. MSF's work is based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics and impartiality. The organization is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. MSF operates independently of any political, military, or religious agendas.