Smugglers have thrown some 280 migrants into the sea off the coast of Yemen in the last two days, causing at least 56 to drown and leaving over 30 missing, the UN migration agency said Thursday.
Survivors – all Ethiopian and Somali migrants – managed to make their way to Shabwa, a southern province along Yemen’s Arabian Sea coastline, the International Organization for Migration said.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the migrants who were forced from boats in two separate ‘deeply troubling’ incidents were hoping to reach countries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen.
The war in Yemen has left over 8,300 people dead and displaced millions since 2015, but the impoverished country continues to draw migrants from the Horn of Africa seeking work in prosperous Gulf countries further north.
The UN said 160 Ethiopian migrants were violently forced into the Arabian Sea on Thursday.
The IOM said in a statement late Thursday that its staff found six bodies on the beach – two male and four female – and 13 people are still missing.
It said 84 migrants left the beach before IOM staff arrived while it provided emergency medical assistance as well as food and water to 57 surviving migrants.
The majority of the migrants appeared to be teenagers and young adults.
On Wednesday, traffickers also forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the rough seas off Yemen to avoid arrest by local authorities, leaving at least 50 dead and 22 missing, IOM reported.
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, currently under the control of Yemeni troops backed by the United States.
They had been buried by survivors.
‘The smugglers deliberately pushed the migrants into the waters since they feared that they would be arrested by the authorities once they reach the shore’, an IOM emergency officer in Aden, where the Yemeni government is based, told AFP.