Yemen hit by second deliberate mass drowning in two days

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People-smugglers force 180 migrants into sea, with six dead and 13 missing, in second such incident described as start of a worrying trend

African migrants wait to board a boat in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen (AFP)
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Thursday 10 August 2017 20:35 UTC
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Scores of migrants were forced from their boat by smugglers with up to 19 believed dead in the second forced drowning of migrants in two days in the Horn of Africa, the UN's migration agency said on Thursday.

180 Ethiopian migrants were forced into the sea off the coast of Yemen by the smugglers they had paid to transport them across the Gulf of Aden. Six are confirmed dead and 13 remain missing presumed drowned from the incident. Survivors managed to make their way to Shabwa province on Yemen's Arabian Sea coastline.

It was the second incident of its sort in as many days off Yemen's Shabwa province. On Wednesday 51 teenage African migrants were "deliberately drowned" when a smuggler forced 120 passengers from his boat, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.

"We condemn the acts of smugglers off the coast of Yemen – 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants were forced from a boat yesterday, and another 180 today, the death toll is still rising," IOM Director General William Lacy Swing told MEE.

"The utter disregard for human life by these smugglers, and all human-smugglers worldwide, is nothing less than immoral. What is a teenager's life worth? On this route to the Gulf countries, it can be as little as $100."

The IOM counted 161 survivors from Thursday's incident, six confirmed dead and a further 13 missing, presumed drowned.

The migration organisation counted 51 dead and 69 survivors in the previous incident on Wednesday. In both incidents, the migrants are reported to be mostly teenagers and young adults.

'It may be the start of a new trend'

IOM's Yemen mission chief, Laurent de Boeck, said on Wednesday that survivors reported smugglers pushed migrants from the boat when they saw "authority types" near the coast.

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

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

Strong waves in the Indian Ocean at this time of year make the crossing especially dangerous.

The migrants, who included some young women, had headed to war-torn Yemen in order to seek opportunities in Gulf countries. According to IOM figures, 55,000 African asylum seekers have travelled from Somalia to Yemen since the start of this year.

Migrant monitoring agencies claim that 111,5000 asylum seekers arrived in Yemen from Africa last year.

"There is something fundamentally wrong with this world if countless numbers of children can be deliberately and ruthlessly drowned in the ocean, when they are no longer an easy source of income, and nothing is done to stop it from ever happening again," said William Lacy Swing.

"We should not have to wait for tragedies like these to show us that international cooperation must be enhanced to fight human-smuggling – not just through policy but through real action along these smuggling routes."

Additional reporting by Reuters and AFP