Smugglers ‘deliberately drowned’ dozens off coast of Yemen, UN says

Up to 50 migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia have been ‘deliberately drowned’ when a smuggler forced them into the sea off Yemen's coast, the UN migration agency said

IOM staff assist migrants after they were forced into the sea by smugglers
IOM staff assist migrants after they were forced into the sea by smugglers

Smugglers forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into rough seas off Yemen on Wednesday, leaving 29 dead and 22 missing, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The IOM said it had found the shallow graves of 29 migrants on a beach in the southern province of Shabwa after they had been buried by survivors.

Some 27 survivors were found still on the beach during a routine patrol, with medical staff providing urgent care.

The smuggler allegedly pushed the migrants into the water when they saw a boat belonging to authorities approaching. 

“The smugglers deliberately pushed the migrants into the waters since they feared that they would be arrested by the authorities once they reach the shore,” an IOM emergency officer in Aden said.

Then they “simply went back to where they came from to pick more migrants and try to smuggle them into Yemen, again”.

The average age of the passengers on the boat is believed to have been 16-years-old, according to the UN agency.

 Laurent de Boeck, the IOM chief of mission in Yemen, called the incident "shocking and inhumane." 

"The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future."

IOM said around 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa headed for Yemen since the start of the year, most aiming to find work in Gulf countries.

The journey is especially hazardous at this time of year because of strong winds in the Indian Ocean.

Yemen, already one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, has been rocked by years of conflict between Shia Houthi rebels and the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

The fighting has killed more than 8,000 people and wounded 44,500 since Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in support of Hadi’s government in March 2015.

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