Smugglers force 180 African refugees off boat headed for Yemen; five migrants drown, 50 missing

Dubai: At least five migrants drowned and 50 went missing on Thursday when smugglers forced 180 Africans off a boat bound for Yemen, a day after a similar incident left 50 dead, the International Organization for Migration said.

A total of 25 people were being treated for injuries on a Yemeni beach on the Red Sea, said the UN migration agency, which could not immediately confirm the nationalities of the casualties.

On Wednesday, people traffickers forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into rough seas off Yemen to avoid arrest by local authorities, leaving at least 50 dead and 22 missing, the IOM said.

IOM teams, working with International Committee of the Red Cross representation, found the bodies of 29 migrants in shallow graves along the coast of Shabwa province in southern Yemen.

 Smugglers force 180 African refugees off boat headed for Yemen; five migrants drown, 50 missing

Representational image. Getty Images

They had been buried by survivors. The average age of the migrants was 16. Long the poorest country in the Arab world, Yemen has been called the "largest humanitarian crisis in the world" by the United Nations.

A brutal war since March 2015 between its Saudi-backed government and Shiite Huthi rebels allied with Iran, a cholera outbreak and the looming threat of famine have left nearly 10,300 people dead and displaced millions.

Yet Yemen continues to draw migrants desperate for work in the stable and prosperous Gulf, accessible by land through its border with Saudi Arabia.

IOM estimates some 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa headed for Yemen since the start of 2017. "This journey is especially hazardous during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean. Smugglers are active in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, offering fake promises to vulnerable migrants," IOM said.

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Updated Date: Aug 10, 2017 19:03:43 IST

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