9 September 2008The United Nations refugee agency said the number of people crossing from the Horn of Africa to Yemen in August was three times the number of arrivals for the same month last year, as smuggling resumed earlier than usual due to calmer weather in the Gulf of Aden. A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said 59 boats brought more than 1,700 people to the coasts of Yemen last month. “That’s triple the number of arrivals for August 2007, when 633 people landed in 10 boats,” Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva. “Smuggling normally subsides between May and September because of stormy weather.”Mr. Redmond said 12 people on one boat died at the end of August, eight of them after jumping into the sea when a gun battle erupted between the Yemeni military and smugglers near the coast. Most of the passengers jumped overboard and eight drowned. Four others died during the voyage across the Gulf of Aden. One Somali man reportedly committed suicide by jumping overboard, while three others suffocated in the hold of the boat.According to UNHCR, almost 24,270 people have made the dangerous voyage across the Gulf of Aden this year aboard smugglers’ boats. More than 177 people died, and 225 people remain missing. At the same time last year, there were 9,153 arrivals, 267 dead and 118 missing.The agency, which has been calling for global action to better address the problem, has stepped up its efforts in Yemen over the past year. A $17 million programme is providing more staff, improved humanitarian assistance, additional shelter for refugees in Kharaz refugee camp, and training programmes for Yemeni coast guards and other officials. “We have also increased our presence along the Yemen coast and opened an additional reception centre,” added Mr. Redmond.