GENEVA – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) revealed Wednesday that 50 teenage African migrants had been “deliberately drowned” by their smuggler off the Yemeni coast earlier on Wednesday morning.
The UN migration agency said that some 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants, who were 16 years old on average, were forced into the sea as they approached the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni governorate along the Arabian Sea.
The teenagers had been en route to the Gulf countries via war-torn Yemen.
During a routine patrol, IOM staff found the bodies of 29 migrants in shallow graves on a beach in Shabwa. They had been buried quickly by those who survived the smuggler’s deadly actions.
“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,” explained Laurent de Boeck, IOM Yemen chief of mission.
“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. This is shocking and inhumane. The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future,” continued de Boeck.
Smugglers have been active in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, offering fake promises to vulnerable migrants. The IOM estimates that since January 2017, around 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa to come to Yemen, mostly trying to find better opportunities in the Gulf countries.
More than 30,000 of them are from Somalia and Ethiopia and are under the age of 18 with a third are estimated to be women. The journey is especially hazardous during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean.