Scores of migrants 'deliberately drowned' by traffickers near Yemen

A boat full of migrants

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says at least 29 migrants were deliberately pushed into the sea by smugglers who did not want to get caught.

IOM staff found the bodies of 29 African refugees or migrants buried in shallow graves on the beach in Yemen's southern province of Shabwa along the Gulf of Aden, while another 22 were missing after the tragedy, according to survivors.

Laurent de Boeck, the IOM chief of mission in Yemen, called the incident "shocking and inhumane".

The narrow waters between the Horn of Africa and Yemen have become a popular migration route for those hoping to reach the oil-rich Gulf countries.

IOM staffers provided aid for 27 surviving migrants who remained on the beach, while other migrants left.

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

It said in a statement that the average age of the Somali and Ethiopian passengers on the boat appeared to have been 16.

"He denounced an act of "outrageous and inhumane", noting the" enormous suffering of the migrants on this route of migration.

"They have also said that the smuggler was already returned to Somalia to continue its business, and (...) bring back other migrants in Yemen (the way) by the same route", he added. More than 30,000 of those migrants are under 18 and from Somalia and Ethiopia, while a third are estimated to be female. "Too many young people pay smugglers with false hopes of a better future", he lamented.

This year 55,000 African migrants reached Arabian Peninsula through this unsafe route, IOM said. The migrants are vulnerable to abuse by armed trafficking rings, many of them believed to be connected to the armed groups involved in the war. Some Ethiopians have left home after months of deadly anti-government protests and a 10-month state of emergency.

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