Smugglers force 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into rough seas off Yemen, leaving up to 50 dead, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a United Nations agency, said Wednesday calling the drownings “shocking and inhumane”. At least 22 migrants remained missing, the IOM said. The passengers’ average age was around 16, the agency said. Early Wednesday morning, as they were about to reach land, they were thrown into the Arabian Sea by a boatman they had paid to take them across the water.
The IOM said it had found the shallow graves of 29 migrants on a beach in the southern province of Shabwa during a routine patrol after they had been buried by survivors. IOM staffers provided aid for 27 surviving migrants who remained on the beach, while other migrants left.
“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,” said an IOM emergency officer in Aden.
“The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them to the sea when he saw some ‘authority types’ near the coast,” said Laurent de Boeck, the IOM’s chief of mission in Yemen. “They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route.”
The conflict in Yemen is a deadly risk. In March, Somalia’s government blamed the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen for an attack on a boat that killed at least 42 Somali refugees off Yemen’s coast.
Somali And Ethiopian Migrants
Some Somalis are desperate to avoid years of chaos at home with attacks by homegrown extremist group al-Shabab and deadly drought. Some Ethiopians have left home after months of deadly anti-government protests and a 10-month state of emergency.
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.