UN's Migration Agency Says Migrants Were Pushed From Boats

Saul Bowman
August 11, 2017

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says more than 50 refugees, mostly teenagers, have been "deliberately" drowned by a human smuggler in rough seas off Yemen's coast.

The survivors told IOM that the smuggler pushed them after seeing people who looked like officials, the IOM's Yemen mission head Laurent de Boeck said.

Almost 5 migrants are feared dead and 50 are missing after smugglers threw 180 Africans off a boat into the sea off Yemen's coast.

"It is shocking and inhuman".

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. The statement mentioned that the average age of the migrants was 16.

In Wednesday's incident, more than 120 people were forced off the boat into the open waters just before reaching Yemen's coast. They also told the migration agency that the smuggler went back to Somalia to pick up more migrants.

The IOM statement says smugglers recently have begun pushing migrants out of boats out of fear of arrest. The suffering of the migrants on this route is huge.


"It may be the start of a new trend, smugglers know the situation is risky for them and they could be shot at, so they drop them near the shore", Olivia Headon, IOM spokesperson, told Reuters on Thursday.

About a third of those migrants are female, and more than half were under the age of 18 when they left their home countries, the IOM says.

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

Windy season in the Indian Ocean makes the trip especially unsafe.

Already this year 55,000 migrants have taken the hazardous route from the Horn of Africa to Yemen to seek possible opportunities offered in the Gulf, the IOM said.

Many others also try to reach Europe via Libya and the Mediterranean Sea. "Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future", de Boeck said. In March, Somalia's government blamed the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen for an attack on a boat that killed at least 42 Somali refugees off Yemen's coast.

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