280 mi­grants go into sea in two days

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - EDITH M. LED­ERER AND LORNE COOK

UNITED NA­TIONS — Smug­glers have thrown about 280 mi­grants into the sea off the coast of Yemen in the past two days, caus­ing dozens to drown and leav­ing more than 35 miss­ing, the U.N. mi­gra­tion agency said Thurs­day.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Du­jar­ric said the mi­grants who were forced from boats in two sep­a­rate, “deeply trou­bling” cases were hop­ing to reach coun­tries in the Per­sian Gulf through war-torn Yemen.

The In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion said Wed­nes­day that up to 50 mi­grants from Ethiopia and So­ma­lia were “de­lib­er­ately drowned” by a smug­gler off Yemen. The U.N. agency said 160 Ethiopi­ans were vi­o­lently forced into the Ara­bian Sea on Thurs­day.

The agency said in a state­ment late Thurs­day that its staff found six bod­ies on the beach — two male and four fe­male — and 13 peo­ple are still miss­ing. It said 84 mi­grants left the beach be­fore agency work­ers ar­rived and pro­vided emer­gency med­i­cal as­sis­tance, as well as food and wa­ter, to 57 sur­vivors.

Du­jar­ric said the sit­u­a­tion for mi­grants try­ing to cross the Mediter­ranean Sea and the Sa­hara desert are “just as heart­break­ing” as the tragedy un­fold­ing off Yemen.

U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res “is heart­bro­ken by this con­tin­u­ing tragedy,” Du­jar­ric added.

“This is why he con­tin­ues to stress that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity must give pri­or­ity to preventing and re­solv­ing a va­ri­ety of sit­u­a­tions which both gen­er­ate mass move­ment and ex­pose those al­ready on the move to sig­nif­i­cant dan­ger,” the U.N. spokesman said.

“We must also in­crease le­gal path­ways for reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion and of­fer cred­i­ble al­ter­na­tives to these dan­ger­ous cross­ings for peo­ple in need of in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion,” Du­jar­ric said.

The nar­row wa­ters be­tween the Horn of Africa and Yemen have been a pop­u­lar mi­gra­tion route de­spite Yemen’s con­flict. Mi­grants, most of them Ethiopi­ans, try to make their way to oil-rich Per­sian Gulf coun­tries in hopes of find­ing jobs.

Lau­rent de Boeck, the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion’s chief of mis­sion in Yemen, said Thurs­day that some of the mi­grants try­ing to reach Yemen “are not aware at all that there is a war. Some­times they don’t even be­lieve us when we ex­plain it to them.”

Just by mak­ing land, they feel “they are half­way to wealthy,” he said.

In the first drown­ings Wed­nes­day, a smug­gler forced more than 120 mi­grants into the sea as they ap­proached Yemen’s coast, the agency said. Agency em­ploy­ees found the shal­low graves of 29 mi­grants on a beach in Shabwa dur­ing a rou­tine pa­trol. At least 22 peo­ple re­mained miss­ing.

The pas­sen­gers’ av­er­age age was about 16, the agency said.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Elias Me­seret and Abdi Guled of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

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