280 migrants go into sea in two days
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.