Smuggler 'pushed' migrants off boat, killing dozens

Representational Image

Representational Image

Twenty-five people were being treated for injuries on a Yemeni beach, said the IOM, which could not immediately confirm the nationalities of the casualties.

"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 Yemen chief of mission.

IOM teams, working with the International Committee of the Red Cross, found the bodies of 29 migrants in shallow graves along the coast of Shabwa, now under the control of Yemeni troops backed by the United States. The dead were buried by those who survived.

Smugglers were pushing migrants into the sea away from the mainland for fear of government boats, amid reinforced border controls, or to avoid encountering armed groups on shore in the war-torn country. The migrants pushed into the sea are teenagers.

The average age of those on board was 16.

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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, IOM said.

Some 180 Ethiopian and Somali were forced into rough seas off Yemen by smugglers and 55 of them are presumed to have drowned, the United Nations migration agency has said.

"They also told us that the smuggler already has returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route".

The smuggler's boat approaching Yemen on Wednesday was near the Shabwa coast. According to the IOM, a high percentage of the migrants making the journey to Yemen are under the age of 18. Others left the beach before assistance arrived. Many leave from points in Djibouti, with some departing from Somalia.

"Some are coming for the third time". "They are between 12 and 25 years old".

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Mr 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.

In Ethiopia, people expressed outrage on social media over the drownings.

The conflict itself is a deadly risk.

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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