Smug­glers drown 50 African refugees

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

FIFTY refugees from So­ma­lia and Ethiopia try­ing to get to the Gulf were “de­lib­er­ately drowned” by peo­ple smug­glers on Wed­nes­day and their bod­ies buried in shal­low graves along the beach in Shabwa, Yemen, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM).

A hu­man smug­gler, in charge of the boat, forced more than 120 refugees into the pitch­ing sea as they ap­proached the coast of Shabwa, a Ye­meni Governorate along the Ara­bian Sea.

The refugees had been hop­ing to reach coun­tries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen.

Shortly af­ter the tragedy, staff from IOM, the UN Mi­gra­tion Agency, found the shal­low graves of 29 refugees on a beach in Shabwa, dur­ing a rou­tine pa­trol. The dead had been buried rapidly by those who sur­vived the smug­gler’s deadly ac­tions.

The mi­gra­tion agency said it was work­ing closely with the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross to en­sure ap­pro­pri­ate care for the de­ceased refugees’ re­mains.

Med­i­cal staff from the agency also pro­vided ur­gent care to the 27 sur­viv­ing refugees who had re­mained on the beach.

IOM said it pro­vided ini­tial health checks and as­sis­tance, in­clud­ing food, wa­ter and other emer­gency re­lief.

Some of the sur­vivors had al­ready left the beach be­fore be­ing as­sisted.

Twenty-two refugees are re­port­edly still miss­ing and un­ac­counted for. The av­er­age age of the pas­sen­gers on the boat was 16.

“The sur­vivors told col­leagues on the beach that the smug­glers pushed them into 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.”

Since Jan­uary, the mi­gra­tion agency es­ti­mates that around 55 000 refugees left the Horn of Africa for Yemen, most with the aim of try­ing to find bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties in the Gulf coun­tries.–

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