Aug. 9 (UPI) — A human smuggler forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the sea as their boat approached the Yemeni coast, killing at least 29 people, the United Nations’ migration agency said Wednesday.
The International Organization for Migration said its representatives found the shallow graves of 29 people on a beach in Shabwa, a Yemeni governorate along the Arabian Sea, during a routine patrol Wednesday. Those who survived the incident rapidly buried the dead upon reaching the shore.
The IOM said at least 22 people were unaccounted for after being forced into the sea, and medical staff provided healthcare to 27 survivors. Others left the beach before assistance arrived.
“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. This is shocking and inhumane. The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future.”
The IOM estimates about 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa to travel to Yemen since the beginning of the year. More than 30,000 of them are under the age of 18 and from Somalia or Ethiopia. The average age of the passengers on the boat Wednesday was 16.
“This journey is especially hazardous during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean,” an IOM release said. “Smugglers are active in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, offering fake promises to vulnerable migrants.”