French Navy rescues 100 migrants as boat drifts in Gulf of Aden

A French Navy ship rescued around 100 African migrants, mostly Somalis, on a drifting boat in the Gulf of Aden on Saturday, a Yemeni coastguard source said.

The source told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the boat was 65 miles from the southern Yemeni port of Aden when it drifted after an engine failure.

A French frigate patrolling the area spotted the boat and rushed to its rescue, reported dpa.

"All the passengers were rescued and will be handed over to Yemeni coastguard officials later today," the source said.

The migrants, Somalis and Ethiopians, were heading to the Yemeni coast seeking refuge in the Arabian Peninsula country.

This was the third accident involving migrants off Yemen in the course of one month.

Forty-five Africans drowned after a boat carrying them from Somalia across the Gulf of Aden capsized in deep waters off Yemen on February 27.

On February 20, six African migrants drowned and 11 were reported missing and presumed dead after traffickers pushed 52 passengers overboard in deep waters off Yemen's south-eastern coast.

Many African migrants, mostly from conflict-torn Somalia, try to reach Yemen, which is seen as a gateway to Europe and the oil-rich countries of the Arabian peninsula.

Hundreds of people perish every year in the perilous exodus that takes thousands of desperate Somalis and Ethiopians to Yemen in small boats run by people traffickers operating from Somali ports.

Since the beginning of the year, 198 boats carrying 12,500 people have reached the Yemeni coast. At least 50 people died while trying to reach Yemen by sea from Somalia during the same period.

The influx of new arrivals across the Gulf of Aden since the beginning of this year is slightly higher than during the same period in 2008.

More than 50,000 migrants, the vast majority of them Somalis, resorted to traffickers for the treacherous sea crossing between Somalia and Yemen in 2008.

At least 590 people drowned and another 359 were reported missing last year as result of crossings gone wrong, often with traffickers forcing the migrants overboard.

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