Dozens of desperate migrants fleeing back to Africa drown off Yemen

Dozens of desperate migrants fleeing back to Africa drown off Yemen
An overcrowded boat carrying African migrants from Yemen to Djibouti capsized earlier this week, killing 30 people, the UN has reported
2 min read
26 January, 2018
Many Africans make the treacherous journey to Yemen to find work in the Gulf [Getty]

At least 30 African migrants and refugees drowned when a boat capsized off Yemen's coast earlier this week, the UN said on Friday, reiterating warnings of the risks involved with travelling to the war-torn country.

The overcrowded boat was carrying around 152 Ethipians and Somalis when it tragically capsized. It was heading from the al-Buraiqa coast near the Yemeni city of Aden toward Djibouti, the UN migration agency said.

The International Organisation for Migration said the vessel is believed to have been operated by "unscrupulous smugglers" attempting to take refugees and migrants to Djibouti, who tried "to extort more money" from the migrants. Survivors reported gunfire as the boat capsized.

IOM reported they were giving assistance to the survivor's of the accident alongside the Yemeni coastguard, including medical assistance, food, water and psychological support services.

"As we have been saying for almost five years now, the preservation of human life is our utmost priority everywhere," said IOM Director William Lacy Swing in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday. "Yemen is no exception; we are deeply troubled by reports of this latest incident."

Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war pitting a Saudi-led coalition backing an internationally recognised government against Iran-backed Shiite rebels since March 2015. Despite the fighting, African migrants and refugees continue to arrive in the war-torn country, where there is no central authority to prevent them from travelling onward to reach oil-rich Gulf countries in hopes of finding jobs and better living conditions.

IOM figures show that some 87,000 people sought to reach Yemen from the Horn of Africa by boat in 2017. UN agencies have attempted to discourage migrants from embarking on the perilous trip by holding regional awareness campaign in several countries, including Ethiopia and Somalia, to warn people of its dangers.

"Yemen is one of the most dangerous places in the world, it's in the middle of a terrible conflict, on the verge of famine, with a cholera epidemic, and so on, and yet refugees and migrants continue to arrive," UNHCR's spokesman William Spindler said.

The UN agencies blamed the prolonged Yemeni conflict for subjecting refugees and migrants to the risk of human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, detention, trafficking and deportation.

The near three-year stalemated war in Yemen has damaged its infrastructure, crippled the health system and pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine. The impoverished country is also grappling with a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 2,000 people since April and a diphtheria outbreak that is believed to have infected over 700 people since August 2017.