Smugglers Throw Nearly 280 Migrants Overboard Near Yemen

Six migrants drowned and 13 were missing Thursday when smugglers forced 180 Ethiopian migrants off a boat bound for Yemen, a day after a similar incident left 50 dead, the International Organization for Migration said.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says at least 29 migrants were deliberately pushed into the sea by smugglers who did not want to get caught.

UN Secretary-General Antonio has said he was “heartbroken” after smugglers pushed mostly African migrants off boats heading for Yemen twice in two days.

Smugglers were reportedly pushing migrants into the sea away from the mainland so as to avoid encountering possibly armed groups on shore in the war-torn country – they were then going back to pick up more migrants. The majority of the migrants appeared to be teenagers and young adults. The statement mentioned that the average age of the migrants was 16.

The IOM estimates that since January, 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa to come to Yemen.

“The smugglers are panicking”, de Boeck said, adding that reinforced border controls along the coast could be having a counter-productive effect. Most of the people on the boat were from Ethiopia and Somalia.

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

They also provided medical care to 27 surviving migrants who had stayed on the beach.

More than 111,500 migrants landed on Yemen’s shores last year, up from around 100,000 the year before, according to the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, a grouping of worldwide agencies that monitors migration in the area. Many leave from points in Djibouti, with some departing from Somalia.

Migrants travelling from Djibouti pay about $150, while migrants travelling from northern Somalia pay between $200 and $250 because the route to Yemen is longer. The other route used by migrants to reach Europe is through the Mediterranean Sea.

In Ethiopia, people expressed outrage on social media over the drownings.

Yemen’s conflict itself is a deadly risk.

In March, a helicopter opened fire on the vessel carrying over 140 Somali passengers in the Red Sea off the Yemen coast, killing 42 civilians and wounding another 34.