4 Jan 2011

Would-be immigrants drown at sea

8:27 am on 4 January 2011

Two boats crammed with East African immigrants have capsized off the coast of Yemen. Up to 80 people are feared to have drowned.

Rescue teams have found only three survivors.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry quoted coastguards in Aden as saying the first boat went down off the coast of Taez province with 46 people on board. Three Somalis were reportedly found alive.

The second boat capsized off Lahij province. The ministry said it was carrying "between 35 - 40 people" including women and children. All were Ethiopians.

It was not clear from the statement when the incidents took place.

The BBC reports thousands of people attempt the dangerous journey from Africa across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen every year. Hundreds die before reaching their destination.

The UN's refugee agency says more than 74,000 Africans arrived in Yemen in 2009.

Yemen is seen as a gateway to a better life in the Middle East or Europe.