Scores of migrants 'deliberately drowned' by traffickers near Yemen

Scores of migrants 'deliberately drowned' by traffickers near Yemen
Refugees were forced off a trafficking boat in open seas leading to the deaths of dozens of refugees, with the UN chillingly discovering the shallow graves of those who drowned.
2 min read
09 August, 2017

As many as 50 migrants from the Horn of Africa were "deliberately drowned" by a people trafficker who forced them into the sea off the Yemen coast, the UN migration agency said Wednesday.

The International Organisation for Migration said its staff discovered the shallow graves of 29 people on a beach in Shabwa during a routine patrol. Those who died were buried by the survivors who made it to Yemen.

According to the IOM, the smuggler forced more than 120 people into the sea on Wednesday morning as their boat approached Yemen's coast.

"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."

At least 22 of the migrants, who came from Somalia and Ethiopia, remain missing. 

The passengers' average age was around 16, according to the agency.

Despite Yemen's ongoing war, migration routes through the country and onto the oil-rich Gulf nations are still popular.

Years of political chaos, combined with the rise of terror groups and deadly drought have driven many to leave Somalia. In Ethiopia, deadly anti-government protests and a 10-month state of emergency have forced some to choose to migrate.

The IOM estimates that around 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa for Yemen since January. It is estimated that a third of those who undertake this perilous route are women.

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

In March, Somalia accused the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen attacking and killing at least 42 Somali refugees who were on board a boat off Yemen's coast.