Up to 50 teen migrants 'deliberately drowned' off Yemen

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

On Thursday, at least five migrants have died and 50 are missing off the coast of the province of Chabwa in the south of Yemen, the second drama of its kind since Wednesday, said the worldwide Organization for migration (IOM).

Five bodies have been recovered while around 50 people were missing after the incident on Thursday, the International Organisation for Migration reported.

Some 180 young Ethiopian and Somali migrants, many weakened by hunger and drought in their home countries, were forced from a boat into rough seas off Yemen by smugglers on Thursday and 55 were presumed to have drowned, the United Nations migration agency said.

Survivors gathered amid a grisly scene as 29 bodies from Wednesday's incident were discovered buried in shallow graves on the Yemeni shoreline today.

An estimated 55,000 people have left the Horn of Africa for Yemen since January 2017, according to the IOM, in the hopes of finding better economic opportunities in Gulf countries. They also told the migration agency that the smuggler went back to Somalia to pick up more migrants.

They told of being forced to squat down during the entire trip from Ambah Shore in Somalia, which sometimes takes between 24-36 hours, so that the smugglers could increase the number of people in the boat. Smugglers work in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Rescue teams have saved a thousand African migrants abandoned by people smugglers in the Niger part of the Sahara desert in recent months, the UN's International Office of Migration (IOM) said Wednesday. The average age of the passengers was just 16, according to IOM.

At least six people drowned today after human smugglers forced 180 Ethiopians off their boat and into the choppy waters of the Arabian Sea, an IOM spokesperson told AFP.

This year 55,000 African migrants reached Arabian Peninsula through this risky route, IOM said. Along the route, they are vulnerable to abuse by armed trafficking rings, many of them believed to be connected to the armed groups involved in the war.

Migrants travelling from Djibouti pay about $150, while migrants travelling from northern Somalia pay between $200 and $250 because the route to Yemen is longer.

Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has been heavily bombarding Yemen as part of a brutal campaign against its impoverished southern neighbor in an attempt to reinstall the former government and crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.

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