10 July 2007The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) has used a halt in the annual flow of Somali boatpeople travelling across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen to draw attention to their plight and call for more action to help those who endure such harsh journeys. The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) has used a halt in the annual flow of Somali boatpeople travelling across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen to draw attention to their plight and call for more action to help those who endure such harsh journeys.UNHCR Jennifer Pagonis told reporters today in Geneva that the flow across the Gulf of Aden “to seek safety or a better life has temporarily halted because seas are too rough to make the crossing in July and August.”Still, each year between September and the following June, “irregular travel to Yemen has also become increasingly difficult as a result of increased crackdowns on smugglers in Somalia’s Bosaso region and heightened security patrols along the Yemen coastline,” she said.For those refugees who do secure a trip, the risks of death or sickness have increased. Because of a need to find new routes, trips are more indirect and take around three days rather than the regular two.The treatment of the refugees by smugglers who have managed to remain active despite the crackdown is increasingly horrendous, Ms. Pagonis noted. After paying $50, many refugees are forced to disembark while still in deep water, where most are then beaten with clubs, drown or are attacked by sharks.The solution lies not only in cracking down on smugglers, but on tackling the root causes of persecution, poverty and conflict that drive so many people to leave their homes and risk such perilous sea journeys, Ms. Pagonis said.Countries receiving migrants should have more help in managing the inflows so that people who need protection can get it and those who do not can return home safely.She stressed that anyone in distress at sea should be rescued, allowed to disembark and given access to proper screening procedures upon arrival.For the first six months of this year, UNHCR has recorded the arrival of 77 smuggling boats carrying more than 8,600 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, mainly Somalis and Ethiopians, across the Gulf of Aden.Although these figures are below those equivalent statistics from the first half of 2006, when over 11,700 people made the journey, the trip has become more deadly: at least 367 people have been killed so far this year, compared to 266 for the same period last year.Ms. Pagonis added that while smuggling in the Gulf of Aden has come to a temporary seasonal halt, it has started again in the Mediterranean Sea.“UNHCR has repeatedly expressed its concerns about the situation in the Gulf of Aden, the Mediterranean and other waters, as some of those who risk their lives making such crossing are refugees and asylum seekers,” she said. The number of irregular arrivals into Italy fell by 31 per cent compared to the first six months of last year, but in June alone 200 people were reported dead or missing reported in the Strait of Sicily.Last year UNHCR presented a Ten-Point Plan of Action on Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration that sets out a number of measures to assist States in dealing with the issue.