Traffickers push up to 180 migrants into sea off Yemen

UN International Organization for Migration
IOM staff assist Somali and Ethiopian migrants who were forced into the sea by smugglers

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 United Nations migration agency has said. "Five bodies have been recovered so far and around 50 are reported missing", the press release said.

"When they arrive, they either disappear directly or are taken by smugglers again, who unfortunately take them to places where they kidnap them", said Mr de Boeck.

The migrants, who included some young women, were headed to war-torn Yemen in order to seek opportunities in Gulf countries. Most come from Somalia and Ethiopia. "Too many young people pay smugglers with false hopes of a better future", he lamented. The average age of the passengers was just 16, according to IOM.

After allegedly forcing people off the boat, it's believed it turned around and returned to Somalia.

On this route, migrants are exposed to the dangers of Yemen's conflict, with some having been killed in the war.

"We condemn the acts of smugglers off the coast of Yemen - 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants were forced from a boat yesterday, and another 180 today, the death toll is still rising", IOM Director General William Lacy Swing told MEE.

But most get caught in the conflict before reaching the promises of jobs in the Gulf, Headon says.

Laurent de Boeck, the IOM's chief of mission in Yemen, described the ordeal as "shocking and inhumane", and said the agency staffers had provided urgent care to the surviving refugees remaining on the beach. "They (the smugglers) are basically continuing their business by killing people", he said.

De Boeck called the suffering of migrants on the route enormous, especially during the current windy season on the Indian Ocean.

Migrant monitoring agencies claim that 111,5000 asylum seekers arrived in Yemen from Africa previous year.

The group, which included Gambians and Senegalese, said they had been abandoned by their driver.

The route is popular because it is cheaper than others, but when they arrive migrants often fall victims to abuse.


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