Some 50 Somali and Ethiopian migrants traveling by boat to Yemen were forced into the sea by a human smuggler and drowned off the coast of Shabwa on Wednesday.
There were dozens of survivors, some of whom left as others quickly buried 29 of the dead in shallow graves along the beach, the International Organization for Migration said. The survivors were discovered by staff of IOM, the United Nations migration agency, who were conducting a routine patrol on shore.
Another 22 victims remained missing.
“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. “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.”
De Boeck said the incident was both shocking and inhumane, and called attention to the youth of so many migrants suffering at the hands of smugglers. The average age of the boat occupants was 16, the organization said.
Since January 2017, around 55,000 migrants left the Horn of Africa to enter Yemen and transit to other Gulf countries. More than 30,000 of those migrants are under the age of 18 from Somalia and Ethiopia, while a third are estimated to be female, the IOM said.