United Nations chief 'heartbroken' by forced drownings of scores of African migrants

United Nations chief 'heartbroken' by forced drownings of scores of African migrants

United Nations chief 'heartbroken' by forced drownings of scores of African migrants

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

Twenty-five people were being treated for injuries on a Yemeni beach, said the IOM, which could not immediately confirm the nationalities of the casualties.

"The dead had been quickly buried by those who survived the smugglers' deadly actions", IOM said.

On Wednesday, traffickers pushed over 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the Arabian Sea off Yemen's southern Shabwa governorate, according to the IOM. 84 migrants (in addition to the 57) left the beach before IOM arrived. "Fifty are still missing from this incident, so 55 are presumed dead", IOM spokeswoman Olivia Headon told Reuters.

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 statement mentioned that the average age of the migrants was 16.

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"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", said Laurent de Boeck, the IOM's chief of mission in Yemen. Migrants, a lot of them Ethiopians, try to make their way to oil-rich Gulf countries in hopes of finding jobs.

The journey through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden is particularly unsafe during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean. Most of the people on the boat were from Ethiopia and Somalia.

More than 30,000 of those migrants are under age 18 and from Somalia or Ethiopia, while a third are estimated to be female. The other route used by migrants to reach Europe is through the Mediterranean Sea.

Despite the fighting in Yemen, African migrants continue to arrive in the country where there is no central authority to prevent them from traveling onward. A boat carrying Somali migrants was attacked in March, killing 42.

United Nations migration agency IOM found six bodies on the beach - two males and four females.

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