Sana’a (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At least 19 migrants have died after being deliberately drowned, the UN’s migration agency says.
Hundreds of migrants were forced from a boat off the coast of Yemen for the second time in two days.
A spokeswoman for the Geneva-based International Organisation of Migration (IOM) said the incidents “may be the start of a new trend”.
“Smugglers know the situation is dangerous for them and they could be shot at, so they drop them near the shore,” she said.
Despite its active conflict and terrible humanitarian situation, Yemen is still seen by many Africans as a crossroads to reach the rich Gulf nations or Europe. For this reason, thousands of people are willing to get on rickety overcrowded boats to reach Yemen, putting their lives at risk.
In a video statement posted on Twitter, William Lacey Swing, OIM Director General, said: “The utter disregard for human life by these smugglers, and all human smugglers worldwide, is nothing less than immoral.”
In addition to the 19 confirmed drowned, the UN say 180 people were forced off a boat near the coast of Yemen on Thursday.
The bodies of 29 migrants were found in shallow graves dug in the beach. They were thrown off a boat by traffickers off the coast of Yemen’s Shabwa province.
Up to 70 people, both male and female aged on average 16, could have died in the past two days.
In 2016 over 255,000 Somalis fled to Yemen according to the UNHCR, but thousands have travelled back because of the violence in the country.
This year, about 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa to come to Yemen, more than half of them were under the age of 18 and a third were thought to be female.