Smugglers force migrants into sea off Yemen, 55 feared drowned


Smugglers have thrown some 280 migrants into the sea off the coast of Yemen in the last two days, causing more than 50 to drown and leaving over 30 missing, the United Nations migration agency said Thursday.

Laurent de Boeck, IOM's Yemen mission head, said the boat's crew immediately returned to Somalia on Wednesday to pick up more migrants headed to Yemen on the same route.

IOM staff assist Somali and Ethiopian migrants who were forced into the sea by smugglers.

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

IOM staff found the bodies of 29 African migrants buried in shallow graves on the beach in Yemen's southern province of Shabwa along the Gulf of Aden.

More than 30,000 of these new migrants were under 18 years of age.

"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.

Migrants are braving the journey despite the war in Yemen as the violent conflict means there is no central authority to stop them travelling onward.

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"A total of 1,000 migrants have been rescued since April of this year in northern Niger by the (IOM's) search and rescue operations", the agency said.

It said the passengers were mostly young people from Somalia and Ethiopia, who had paid people smugglers in the hope of finding a better life.

The International Red Cross said on Wednesday the breakdown in Yemen society had left humanitarian organizations treating "chronic disease that nobody should die of", such as diabetes.

The journey is particularly unsafe at this time of year due to high winds in the Indian Ocean.

IOM estimates that around 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa to come to Yemen this year alone, with most from Somalia and Ethiopia.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea is particularly unsafe because of strong currents and high winds.

The war was about 8400 deaths and 48 000 injured since the intervention in march 2015 an arab coalition led by saudi Arabia, in support of government forces, according to the latest figures from the world health Organization.