MOGADISHU (AFP) — Security forces in Somalia’s semiautonomous Puntland state arrested at least 113 illegal Ethiopian immigrants in a 48-hour raid in the coastal areas, officials said Friday.
Puntland is a hub for local groups smuggling illegal immigrants from southern Somalia regions and Ethiopia on their way to cross the Gulf of Aden to Yemen in hope of making their way to Saudi Arabia for a better life.
“The security forces are in operation fighting the smugglers and this is a clear message to those exploiting human lives by involving smuggling and risking their lives,” Puntland security minister Yusuf Ahmed Kheyr told a press conference after the immigrants’ arrest.
“If they don’t stop smuggling people they will regret the consequences”, he added.
“Around 113 illegal immigrants were arrested in the past 48 hours and the operations to crack down on the illegal immigration will continue”, Bari province governor Abdihafid Ali Yusuf told reporters.
“They are Ethiopians and we will return them to their country safely”, Yusuf said.
Hundreds of African immigrants, most of them Somalis and Ethiopians, have died in recent years as they tried to make their way to Yemen by crossing the Gulf of Aden with overcrowded boats.
The security forces in Puntland also arrested dozens of other Somali and
Ethiopian immigrants last week during raids at coastal villages in the region which smugglers use to transport illegal immigrants.