February 24, 2008

Oromo Refugees Dumped Off of Las Qoary, Somalia

Ethiopian Migrants Dumped Off of Country's North Coast
Nearly 120 Ethiopian migrants were dumped off of north Somalia's coastal town of Las Qoray and informed that they were on Yemeni shores, local sources reported Saturday.

Las Qoray residents awoke today to find the migrants near the coast, including women and children.

A local source told Garowe Online that the migrants are from Ethiopia, and most belong to that country's ethnic Oromo majority.

The migrants told Las Qoray locals that they were thrown overboard when they "saw lights" in the distance. The armed smugglers apparently told the migrants that they had reached the shores of Yemen, a destination for migrants fleeing the Horn of Africa region.

The boat was loaded in a small village east of the port city of Bossaso, the commercial hub of the Puntland regional autonomy, the migrants said.

The boat stayed on the high seas for many hours and then got close to the shore during the night, when the unsuspecting migrants could be easily tricked.

"They [migrants] told us they were thrown overboard," said a local clan elder who spoke with the Ethiopians. "They looked tired and were in very bad shape."

The Bossaso-to-Yemen smuggling route kills hundreds of African migrants each year. Earlier this week, at least 37 people, mostly Somalis and Ethiopians, died in the Gulf of Aden as they attempted to reach the Yemeni coast.

Las Qoray is located in Sanaag, a region disputed for years between Puntland and the neighboring self-declared Republic of Somaliland.

But since last year, Las Qoray and much of Sanaag region has remained in the hands of local clan leaders who established the Maakhir State of Somalia, which considers itself part of federal Somalia but independent of both Somaliland and Puntland.

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