On the cliffs of Mareero, a smuggler's departure point 14 km east of Puntland's commercial port, Bossaso, Somalis wait for the evening departure of the smuggler's boat they hope will take them to Yemen.
afrol News, 2 December - Departure points for an often deadly boat trip from Africa to Yemen may be shifting from Puntland to Somaliland, with Djibouti remaining the main transit point. Coastguards now receive training to halt and to rescue migrants.
Coastguards from the Horn region are now to benefit from training provided by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) to equip them with the necessary skills to protect and assist irregular migrants and asylum-seekers travelling at great risk through Somaliland, Puntland and Djibouti en route to Yemen.
Odile Robert at the IOM's Horn of Africa office told afrol News that training first will be provided to coastguards from Somalia's Puntland, Yemen and Djibouti. "The coastguards of Somaliland will be included at a later stage in 2011 since they are also key actors to increase protection of migrants in the region," he added.
Coastguards protecting these volatile waters were facing "various security threats and challenges," Djibouti-based Mr Robert said. The Gulf of Aden region is plagued by "piracy, the smuggling of arms and drugs and the smuggling and trafficking of human beings," he explained.
Enhanced measures had been requested by government representatives "to ensure the safety of navigation, as the continuing lack of adequate search and rescue facilities make it difficult for coastguards to rescue people in distress," Mr Odlie told afrol News. Currently, regional coastguards were lacking adequate equipment, resources and capacities to rescue and assist migrants at sea.
But not only coastguards in the Gulf of Aden are vulnerable. Migrants, often victims to human trafficking, were at even greater risk. "The lawlessness and brutality of the smugglers includes throwing passengers overboard, many of whom cannot swim, in order to avoid detection," Mr Robert said.
The IOM's new training programme and provision of equipment were aiming at improving the life-saving capacity of coastguards in order to identify and protect vulnerable migrants, trafficking victims and smuggled migrants in critical situations and provide individualised assistance to their respective needs.
Asked about the current status of migration flows in the Horn of Africa region, Mr Robert told afrol News these were constantly shifting. The routes were "very complex and dynamic" and traffic was "not diminishing."
The main route throughout 2010 has been from Somalia and Ethiopia to Djibouti, where irregular migrants find boats towards Yemen in the village of Obock-Rasbir. Mr Robert expects this route to maintain its importance.
The second route from Somalia and Ethiopia to Yemen so far has gone through the Puntland city of Bossaso. This however was about to change "because of the measures taken by Puntland authorities."
Mr Robert says he has unconfirmed reports indicating that the western Somaliland town of Zeila (Seylac) could be developing into a new major departure point. His office could not yet confirm whether the Somaliland town is a new "main route or an ad-hoc route."
The third route from the Horn region goes through Sudan and Libya to Mediterranean Sea, or alternatively via the Red sea and Suez Canal to Italy or Malta. Finally, there is also a newer southern route to South Africa, according to Mr Robert.
Addressing this growing traffic has become a major regional security concern. Yesterday and today, high-level government officials from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen therefore met in Djibouti to "look at ways of improving cross-border cooperation between the four countries through better information sharing," according to IOM.
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