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Smugglers 'deliberately drowned' dozens off coast of Yemen, UN says

10 August 2017, 09:59 | Todd Saunders

A boat full of migrants

A boat full of migrants

Smugglers forced more than 120 migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia - a lot of them teenagers - off of a boat near the coast of Yemen on Wednesday, the International Organization for Migration announced in a statement.

The organisation said it had found their shallow graves, dug by survivors, on a beach in southern Yemen along the Gulf of Aden.

"The survivors have told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler had led them to the sea expecting to see +(representatives) of the authorities "near the coast", explains Laurent de Boeck, chief of mission of IOM in Yemen".

The migrants, who included some young women, had headed to war-torn Yemen in order to seek opportunities in Gulf countries.

The tragedy occurred early Wednesday morning local time and was discovered by staff from the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration later that day when they were patrolling a beach in Shabwa, a Yemeni governorate along the Arabian Sea.

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The migrants usually make the risky journey across the Mediterranean Sea with smugglers, who sometimes overcrowd the boats.

Twenty-two were missing while the rest have moved on, the IOM said. More than 30,000 of those migrants are under 18 and from Somalia and Ethiopia, while a third are estimated to be female.

"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".

"They were all quite young, the average age was around 16", IOM spokeswoman Olivia Headon said.

This year 55,000 African migrants reached Arabian Peninsula through this risky route, IOM said. Yemen is now going through a conflict and humanitarian crisis but the migrants go there to try to reach Europe or the Gulf states. IOM and its partners operate across the region to support these migrants and provide lifesaving assistance to those who find themselves abused or stranded along the route. In Ethiopia, deadly anti-government protests and a 10-month state of emergency have forced some to choose to migrate.

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