Smugglers Pushing Refugees to Their Deaths at Sea
Smugglers were pushing migrants into the sea away from the mainland for fear of government boats, amid reinforced border controls, or to avoid encountering armed groups on shore in the war-torn country, the IOM said, according to The Independent.
They were then going back to Africa to pick up more migrants.
The passengers were mostly from Ethiopia and had an average age around 16-years-old.
In the first drowning on Wednesday, smugglers pushed 120 passengers into the water using guns and other weapons.
The narrow waters between the Horn of Africa and Yemen have been a popular migration route despite Yemen’s ongoing civil war.
Migrants, most of them Ethiopians, try to make their way to the oil-rich Gulf countries.
Along the route, they are vulnerable to abuse by armed trafficking rings, many of them believed to be connected to the armed groups involved in the war.
Yemen’s conflict itself is a deadly risk. In March, Somalia’s government blamed the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen for an attack on a boat that killed at least 42 Somali refugees off Yemen’s coast.
More than 111,500 migrants landed on Yemen’s shores last year, up from about 100,000 the year before, according to the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, a grouping of international agencies that monitors migration in the area.
Already this year 55,000 migrants have taken the hazardous route from the Horn of Africa to Yemen to seek possible opportunities offered in the Gulf, the IOM said.
Yemen itself is beset by a two-year civil war in which forces loyal to the Saudi-backed government are pitted against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
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