Published: Fri, August 11, 2017
World News | By Cecilia Wilkerson

Up to 50 African Migrants 'Deliberately Drowned' by Smugglers, UN Says

Up to 50 African Migrants 'Deliberately Drowned' by Smugglers, UN Says

Up to 50 young migrants were "deliberately drowned" by a people smuggler who chose to sacrifice their lives rather than risk arrest, the UN's migration agency said.

Five bodies have been recovered while around 50 people were missing after the incident on Thursday, the International Organisation for Migration reported.

Survivors tell migration officials the smugglers panicked and forced the migrants into the choppy sea when they saw Yemeni authorities as they approached land.

The IOM chief in Yemen stated that most young people, for a better future, trust smugglers who give them a false hope.

Around 55,000 refugees have left the Horn of Africa nations for Yemen since January, with most from Somalia and Ethiopia aiming to find work in the Persian Gulf countries, according to the IOM. More than 30 000 of them are minor and originate from Somalia and Ethiopia.

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The agency said it feared the incidents might mark the start of a new trend in people-smuggling that could lead to more deaths.

Why is war-torn Yemen part of the refugee or migrant route?

The average age of the passengers on the boat was 16 years old.

Migrants are braving the journey despite the war in Yemen as the violent conflict means there is no central authority to stop them travelling onward.

But most get caught in the conflict before reaching the promises of jobs in the Gulf, Headon says. "Some people are paying as little as $100 USA, but then on route they are tortured, they are abused, their families are made aware of this and are forced to pay $1,000 or to $2,000 more".

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"This is shocking and inhumane", de Boeck continued. They also told the migration agency that the smuggler went back to Somalia to pick up more migrants.

Migrant monitoring agencies claim that 111,5000 asylum seekers arrived in Yemen from Africa a year ago.

"The smugglers are panicking", De Boeck said, but added that reinforced border controls along the coast could be having a counter-productive effect.

The route is popular because it is cheaper than others, but when they arrive migrants often fall victims to abuse.

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