Yemen: smuggler pushes migrants into sea, 50 dead

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IOM says around 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa headed for Yemen since the start of the year, most aiming to find work in Gulf countries.

After two-and-a-half years of grinding civil war, Yemen is in the throes of a vicious cholera outbreak and a near starvation, coalescing into one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet. As per the agency, the average age of missing migrants was 16.

The victims had paid smugglers to help them cross the Gulf of Aden from the drought-stricken Horn of Africa to Yemen, itself teetering on the edge of starvation and in the midst of a war. Numerous boat's passengers were teenagers. Reports suggest that many Africans who arrive in Yemen are connected to the groups fighting the war.

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

The journey through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden is particularly risky during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean.

"There was one lead smuggler who was directly instructing the migrants, but he did have other smugglers working on the boat with him who were armed with guns and other weapons".

"What it comes down to is that they know the risks, but they've got this pitch that has been sold to them by these salesmen, these absolute criminals".

With many still unaccounted for, the IOM believes up to 50 may have died.

Part of the rise in migration to Yemen is down to cost, Headon explains. Because it lacks a functioning government, the country has little infrastructure in place to prevent unsanitary conditions and the cholera situation from worsening. "They (the smugglers) are basically continuing their business by killing people", he said.

More than 111,500 migrants arrived on Yemen's shores past year.

Each week, IOM and its partners in the region help to evacuate people from Yemen to Djibouti and back to their home countries.

"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 told AFP.

"Boats are making this journey all the time where people are being abused and raped on route so that their families will pay more..."