At least 56 die crossing from Somalia to Yemen--UN

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GENEVA, Sep 14 (Reuters) At least 56 Africans died trying to cross from Somalia to Yemen in the past 10 days, and others were beaten and doused with acid on a failed journey, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

In its latest update on smuggling activity across the Gulf of Aden, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said more than 10,000 people had arrived in Yemen so far in 2007, and 282 died and 159 are presumed dead after the dangerous journey.

In one case, a vessel carrying at least 100 Somalis ran into trouble on the way to Yemen, and was adrift for six days before returning to Somali shores.

''Many of them were beaten, and some were repeatedly doused with acid by the smugglers. The bodies of those who did not survive the six-day ordeal were reportedly thrown overboard,'' UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a Geneva news briefing.

Smugglers usually operate in the Gulf of Aden from September to June. In 2006, nearly 29,000 people made the crossing to Yemen, at least 328 died and 310 were recorded as missing.

Aid agencies including the UNHCR are running an information campaign along Somalia's coast to warn people of the risks they face using smugglers.

REUTERS SBC AS2008

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