2012 a record year for sea crossings into Yemen: UNHCR

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Somali refugees wait to be registered at a refugee camp in Yemen

A record 107,500 African refugees and migrants last year risked their lives crossing the Gulf of Aden into Yemen, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reported on Tuesday.

UNHCR said this number represents the largest influx into Yemen since it began compiling statistics in 2006.  The previous record high was in 2011 when more than 103,000 people attempted the perilous sea journey.

The majority of arrivals—80 per cent—were Ethiopians, while Somalis comprised the rest.

UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards explained that many of those coming to Yemen use it as a transit stop on the way to Persian Gulf countries,

"Despite the economic and security difficulties, Yemen has continued to receive and host a record number of people fleeing the Horn of Africa in search of safety, protection and better economic conditions. With Somali arrivals, they are automatically recognized as refugees by the Yemeni authorities. We conduct refugee status determination for Ethiopians and other nationals seeking asylum in Yemen, although a very low percentage of Ethiopian arrivals decide to seek asylum there." (29 secs)

UNHCR said the boats making the journey often are overcrowded, or that smugglers sometimes force passengers into the water in efforts to avoid the Yemeni coastguard.

The agency estimates at least 100 people have drowned or gone missing while crossing the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea in 2012.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’34″

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