Up to 50 African migrants 'deliberately drowned' by smugglers, United Nations says

Elias Hubbard
August 12, 2017

The IOM said it feared the incidents might mark the start of a new trend in people-smuggling that could lead to more deaths.

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 drowned, the United Nations migration agency said.

Medics provided care to dozens of survivors, but some left the beach before help arrived. An additional 13 Ethiopian migrants are still missing (unaccounted for).

Despite the fighting in Yemen, African migrants continue to arrive in the war-torn country where there is no central authority to prevent them from traveling onward. The average age of the migrants was 16. Smugglers work in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. They also told the migration agency that the smuggler went back to Somalia to pick up more migrants. Yemen is now going through a conflict and humanitarian crisis but the migrants go there to try to reach Europe or the Gulf states.

It says the journey is particularly unsafe at this time of year due to high winds in the Indian Ocean. "Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future", he said.

More than 30,000 of those migrants are under age 18 and from Somalia or Ethiopia, while a third are estimated to be female. "And they have no choice", Mr de Boeck told the AP. The other route used by migrants to reach Europe is through the Mediterranean Sea.

"This is an unprecedented level of cruelty", wrote one Facebook user, Behailu Talegeta. The migrants are vulnerable to abuse by armed trafficking rings, many of them believed to be connected to the armed groups involved in the war. A boat carrying Somali migrants was attacked in March, killing 42.

Migrant arrivals in Spain have tripled compared to this time previous year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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