Up to 50 migrants 'deliberately drowned' off Yemen, UN says

A migrant who is part of a group intercepted aboard a dinghy off the coast in the Mediterranean sea reacts on a rescue boat upon arriving at a port in Malaga Spain

At least five migrants drowned and 50 went missing on Thursday when smugglers forced 180 Africans off a boat bound for Yemen, a day after a similar incident left 50 dead, the International Organization for Migration said.

Smugglers on Wednesday forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into rough seas off Yemen to avoid arrest by local authorities, leaving at least 29 dead and 22 missing, the organisation said.

Every year, thousands of migrants risk their lives on this life-threatening route towards the Gulf countries through Yemen, a country in crisis. "Some were actually physically pushed as well", IOM spokeswoman Olivia Headon told VOA.

He also encouraged the creation of legal pathways for migration.

Smugglers forced almost 300 migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia overboard from two separate boats Wednesday and Thursday. "Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future", he said.

The IOM estimates that since January, 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa to come to Yemen. Windy season in the Indian Ocean makes the trip especially unsafe.

"The difficulty is also that this is a criminal network which is organised not only in Yemen but also in Somalia, in Djibouti as well as Ethiopia", he added.

'Some are coming for the third time. "And they have no choice", Mr de Boeck told the AP.

De Boeck expressed regret that the European Union is more focused on Mediterranean routes where smugglers have also cast migrants trying to reach Europe adrift. "They are between 12 and 25 years old".

A Guterres spokesman said Thursday the United Nations chief stresses that the global community must make it a priority to prevent such crises that cause the mass movement of people and exposes them to danger. The journey and the situation in Yemen is extremely unsafe for migrants.

More than fifty people have died off Yemen's coast after smugglers threw them off boat to the sea.

In March, a helicopter opened fire on the vessel carrying over 140 Somali passengers in the Red Sea off the Yemen coast, killing 42 civilians and wounding another 34.

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