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Smugglers force migrants into sea off Yemen, 55 feared drowned

Scores of migrants are missing after smugglers pushed them into sea in the second such incident in two days, UN agency says

10 August 2017, 5:51pm
A group of Somali and Ethiopian people wait on a beach near Shabwa after being forced from a boat off the coast of Yemen
A group of Somali and Ethiopian people wait on a beach near Shabwa after being forced from a boat off the coast of Yemen
At least 55 people are feared to have drowned off the coast of Yemen after being forced from a migrant boat by smugglers in the second such incident in two days, the UN migration agency has said.

Five bodies were recovered during an International Organisation for Migration (IOM) beach patrol in Shabwa province, and about 50 more people were missing.

On Wednesday the IOM said 51 people had been “deliberately drowned” in a similar incident. Survivors told the IOM that the smuggler pushed about 120 people into the sea after he thought he had seen some “authority-type” figures off the Yemeni coast. The passengers’ average age was about 16, the IOM said.

“The utter disregard for human life by these smugglers, and all human smugglers worldwide, is nothing less than immoral,” said William Lacy Swing, director general of the IOM. “What is a teenager’s life worth? On this route to the Gulf countries, it can be as little as $100.”

Yemen is in the midst of a protracted civil war and an outbreak of cholera, but migrants and refugees continue to arrive in their thousands, hoping to pass through and reach wealthy Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE.

The IOM says about 55,000 people have left Horn of Africa countries for Yemen since January, with most coming from Somalia and Ethiopia. A third of them are estimated to be women.

Yemen’s humanitarian crisis has been described as the largest of its kind in the world. According to the World Health Organisation, suspected cholera cases have been reported in 95.6% of the country’s provinces.

Some of Thursday’s victims were found with their hands tied, suggesting survivors had tried to bestow some dignity on the victims by preparing their bodies for a traditional burial process.