August 11, 2017 16:50 GMT by dailymail.co.uk

Smugglers throw migrants off boats near Yemen

Smugglers throw migrants off boats near Yemen

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the migrants who were forced from boats in two separate 'deeply troubling' incidents were hoping to reach countries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen.

Smugglers have thrown some 280 migrants into the sea off the coast of Yemen in the last two days, causing at least 56 to drown and leaving over 30 missing, the UN migration agency said Thursday.

Survivors - all Ethiopian and Somali migrants - managed to make their way to Shabwa, a southern province along Yemen's Arabian Sea coastline, the International Organization for Migration said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the migrants who were forced from boats in two separate 'deeply troubling' incidents were hoping to reach countries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen.

The war in Yemen has left over 8,300 people dead and displaced millions since 2015, but the impoverished country continues to draw migrants from the Horn of Africa seeking work in prosperous Gulf countries further north.

At least 56 people have drowned over the past 24 hours, and dozens remain missing, after human traffickers forced 300 African migrants off two Yemen-bound boats and into the sea. Pictured above, IOM staff assist Somali and Ethiopian migrants, who were reportedly forced into the sea

At least 56 people have drowned over the past 24 hours, and dozens remain missing, after human traffickers forced 300 African migrants off two Yemen-bound boats and into the sea. Pictured above, IOM staff assist Somali and Ethiopian migrants, who were reportedly forced into the sea

The UN said 160 Ethiopian migrants were violently forced into the Arabian Sea on Thursday. 

The IOM 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 IOM staff arrived while it provided emergency medical assistance as well as food and water to 57 surviving migrants.

The majority of the migrants appeared to be teenagers and young adults.

On Wednesday, traffickers also forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the rough seas off Yemen to avoid arrest by local authorities, leaving at least 50 dead and 22 missing, IOM reported.

IOM teams, working with the International Committee of the Red Cross, found the bodies of 29 migrants in shallow graves along the coast of Shabwa, currently under the control of Yemeni troops backed by the United States.

They had been buried by survivors.

'The smugglers deliberately pushed the migrants into the waters since they feared that they would be arrested by the authorities once they reach the shore', an IOM emergency officer in Aden, where the Yemeni government is based, told AFP.

Laurent de Boeck, IOM's Yemen mission head, said the boat's crew immediately returned to Somalia on Wednesday to pick up more migrants headed to Yemen on the same route.

He described the forced drownings as '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,' he said.

'The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them to the sea when he saw some 'authority types' near the coast,' de Boeck said earlier. '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.'

Laurent de Boeck, IOM's Yemen mission head said 'too many young people' are paying smugglers in hopes of a 'better future'

Laurent de Boeck, IOM's Yemen mission head said 'too many young people' are paying smugglers in hopes of a 'better future'

De Boeck called the suffering of migrants on the route enormous, especially during the current windy season on the Indian Ocean.

'Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future,' he said.

The IOM says about 55,000 migrants have left Horn of Africa nations for Yemen since January, most from Somalia and Ethiopia fleeing drought and unrest at home.

Many leave from points in Djibouti, with some departing from Somalia. A third of them are estimated to be women.

'Some are coming for the third time. They didn't succeed, they went back home, but the parents didn't agree with the fact that they didn't succeed so they send them back. And they have no choice,' de Boeck told the AP. 'They are between 12 and 25 years old.'

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.

De Boeck expressed regret that the European Union is more focused on Mediterranean routes where smugglers have also cast migrants trying to reach Europe adrift.

'They have forgotten us a little bit,' de Boeck said.

Dujarric, meanwhile, 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.

He said 2,405 people have died or disappeared during their attempts to cross the Mediterranean and more than 265 people have died or were missing while traveling across the Sahara trying to reach the sea.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres 'is heartbroken by this continuing tragedy,' Dujarric said.

'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.

More than 2,000 people have died or disappeared during their attempts to cross the Mediterranean and more than 265 people have died or were missing while traveling across the Sahara trying to reach the sea (file photo)

More than 2,000 people have died or disappeared during their attempts to cross the Mediterranean and more than 265 people have died or were missing while traveling across the Sahara trying to reach the sea (file photo)

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

Long the Arab world's most impoverished country, Yemen has all but collapsed in what the United Nations has called the 'largest humanitarian crisis in the world'.

Years of fighting between the Saudi-backed government and Shiite Huthi rebels allied with Iran have been compounded by a cholera outbreak that has killed almost 2,000 people and the looming threat of famine.

The IOM estimates some 55,000 migrants have however left the Horn of Africa for Yemen since the start of 2017, more than half of them under the age of 18.

The journey is particularly dangerous at this time of year due to high winds in the Indian Ocean.

Despite the war, smugglers - who are highly active in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden - have continued to offer passage through Yemen, which shares a land border with Saudi Arabia.

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.

A confidential UN report, seen by AFP in June, said the attack constituted a violation of international humanitarian law and was most likely carried out by a Saudi-led military coalition backing Yemen's UN-recognised government.

The coalition has denied that its forces were operating in the area when the vessel carrying Somali refugees came under attack.

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