Up to 50 migrants deliberately drowned off the coast of Yemen

TMP – 16/08/2017

At least 50 migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia were deliberately drowned when a smuggler forced them into the sea off the coast of Yemen. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) called the drownings “shocking and inhumane”.

According to an IOM statement, staff from the organization found the graves of 29 of the dead migrants during a routine patrol. The dead were buried by those who survived. At least 22 migrants are still missing IOM said, adding that staff from the organization provided aid to survivors who remained on the beach.

The smuggler forced the migrants into the sea as they approached Yemen’s coast, the IOM statement said.

“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,” he said.

The IOM chief of mission said that the suffering of migrants on the Yemen route are enormous. “Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future,” de Boeck said.

According to IOM, about 55,000 people have left the Horn of Africa for Yemen since January, with most from Somalia and Ethiopia. A third of them are thought to be women.

In Yemen, the migrants are vulnerable to abuse by armed trafficking rings, many of them believed to be connected to the armed groups involved in Yemen’s ongoing conflict.

The conflict itself also poses a risk for migrants. 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 migrants off Yemen’s coast.