A Million Shillings- Escape from Somalia

a million shillings

[features]

Alixandra Fazzina - April - December 2008

[3 of 22] Having arrived in the middle of the night following a fifty-seven hour long voyage from Somalia, dawn breaks over a group of Ethiopian migrants and refugees at a sandy beach near Bir Ali on Yemen's southern coast. A pair of tiny fishing boats sailing close together brought a total of two hundred and fifty-three tahrib within sight of land but coming under fire from Yemeni soldiers, quickly turned around and headed back out into deep waters. Returning the following night for a second attempt at offloading their human cargo, smugglers demanded extra money from passengers if they wanted to be dropped close to shore. Despite being unable to swim, most were thrown overboard two kilometers out at sea as they protested. At least thirty passengers are estimated to have drowned. Only twenty-three of the bodies were ever found.Separated by nationality on arrival, the Somali refugees were first counted and taken away for processing at a nearby reception center just a couple of hours after setting foot on the beach. The Ethiopians who remain behind have not been so lucky. Despite being severely traumatized and dehydrated, soldiers have detained the exhausted group, fearing that unlike the Somalis who have the automatic right to asylum, they might try to escape. It took fifteen hours before they were finally allowed to proceed to the center and receive the water, food and medical attention they so badly needed. Most haven't eaten or had access to drinking water for a long time now, having spent days at beaches waiting to depart from Somalia. Others are just in a state of shock. Having been beaten and robbed by smugglers during the voyage, they must now proceed on their journey into Yemen knowing that their friends and relatives are unaccounted for.