An independent United Nations human rights expert on Friday urged authorities in Somalia to address the root causes that prompt thousands people to put their lives at risk and flee the country by undertaking dangerous sea journeys in flimsy and overcrowded boats.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Shamsul Bari, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, made the appeal three days after 55 Somali refugees and migrants drowned in the latest boat disaster in the Gulf of Aden.
The overcrowded boat carrying some 60 people capsized shortly after leaving the port of Bosasso in the northern Somali breakaway region of Puntland on Tuesday. Almost all passengers on the ill-fated boat were Somalis and Ethiopians attempting to reach Yemen by crossing the Gulf of Aden. Only five of them survived the accident.
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a statement on Thursday said Tuesday's accident was the deadliest of its kind in the Gulf of Aden since February 2011 when 57 Somali migrants drowned while attempting to reach Yemen
"The plight and suffering of Somali boat people must stop. This tragic incident shows the level of desperation of the people living in areas of Somalia which are still stricken by insecurity and the lack of enjoyment of basic economic, social and cultural rights," said Bari.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs like Bari are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
"The tragic loss of so many lives is a new and stark reminder of the risks Somali refugees are taking as they flee their country. Without doubt, the Gulf of Aden is now the deadliest route for people fleeing conflict, violence and human rights abuses in the Horn of Africa," said UNHCR Representative for Somalia, Bruno Geddo.
The UNCHR noted that every year thousands of illegal African migrants attempt to reach Yemen, seen as a gateway to wealthier parts of the Middle East and the West, in unseaworthy and overcrowded boats. Many of them perish in the attempt, while others often fall prey to unscrupulous smugglers.
The UN agency estimates that at least 100,000 people have crossed the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden this year in such fragile and overcrowded boats, ignoring repeated warnings about the risks involved. At least 95 people have either drowned or gone missing in the waters between Somalia and Yemen so far this year.
by RTT Staff Writer
"Despite the recent security developments in the post-transition period, it is critical to find lasting and sustainable peace in Somalia to stop people from putting their lives at risk by undertaking dangerous journeys across the Gulf of Aden," he added.
The expert also urged the Somali authorities at the national, regional and local levels to renew their efforts to address smuggling and trafficking of people in Somalia. He also called on the UN organizations in Somalia to increase their efforts in raising awareness about the dangers of the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden.