The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on Thursday said as many as 50 African migrants trying to get to to the Gulf have been "deliberately drowned" by people smugglers and their bodies buried in shallow graves along the beach in Shabwa, Yemen.
The migration agency said the tragedy came to light on Wednesday morning.
"Early this morning (9 August), a human smuggler, in charge of the boat, forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the pitching sea as they approached the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea. The migrants had been hoping to reach countries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen," said the IOM in a press statement on Thursday.
"Shortly after the tragedy, staff from IOM, the UN Migration Agency, found the shallow graves of 29 migrants 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 migrants’ remains.
Medical staff from the agency also provided urgent care to the 27 surviving migrants, both females and males, 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. As many as 22 migrants are reportedly still missing and unaccounted for. The average age of the passengers on the boat was 16.
"The survivors told our 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 this year, the migration agency estimates that around 55,000 migrants left the Horn of Africa for Yemen, most with the aim of trying to find better opportunities in the Gulf countries.
More than 30,000 of those migrants are under the age of 18 from Somalia and Ethiopia, while a third are estimated to be female. The migration agency said the journey was especially hazardous during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean.
"Smugglers are active in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, offering fake promises to vulnerable migrants."
- African News Agency (ANA)