GENEVA, June 1 – Ten people suffocated and another four are feared to have drowned while undertaking the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden in a smuggler boat, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday.
"Ten Ethiopians suffocated en route to Yemen as the smugglers crammed and confined 25 people to the engine room with no ventilation," said the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in a statement.
"Survivors claim that their bodies were thrown into the sea some seven hours after departure," it added.
Another four people reportedly perished after the smugglers forced them off the boat too far from the coast, said the UNHCR.
"We condemn the unscrupulous and inhumane treatment of refugees and others who are desperately seeking to flee the violence, human rights abuses and seriously debilitating life options in the Horn of Africa," said Erika Feller, the UNHCR assistant high commissioner for protection.
"We have witnessed similar, isolated, individual incidents before, but never on such scale. This speaks volumes about the smugglers’ utter disregard for human life," she said.
Over 100 people have died while making the harrowing journey across the Gulf of Aden so far this year, up sharply from 15 for the whole of 2010, according to the UNHCR.