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Scores drown as human trafficker forces them off boat near Yemen

11 August 2017, 12:41 | Damon Campbell

A boat full of migrants

A boat full of migrants

Up to 180 people were forced off a boat Thursday and at least five have drowned and 50 are still missing, according to the International Organization for Migration.

"The survivors have told our colleagues on the beach that smugglers had been asked to throw themselves into the sea after seeing what appeared to be representatives of the authorities", said Laurent de Boeck, chief of IOM mission, in speaking of the incident on Thursday.

According to the IOM, the smuggler forced more than 120 people into the sea on Wednesday morning as their boat approached Yemen's coast.

IOM teams, working with the International Committee of the Red Cross, found the bodies of 29 migrants in shallow graves along the coast of Shabwa, now under the control of Yemeni troops backed by the United States.

Despite Yemen's ongoing war, migration routes through the country and onto the oil-rich Gulf nations are still popular. Over 30,000 of them are under the age of 18 and came from Somalia and Ethiopia, while a third of them are said to be female. Travelling there usually involves paying illegally operating human smugglers, and passing through the narrow waters aroud the coast of Yemen. The survivors told officials of IOM in Yemen that smugglers have returned to Somalia to bring more migrants to Yemen from the same route. "Even if you are aware of the dangers of the route, as a migrant you buy into the idea, the dream of finding a job there", Headon added. Also, the smugglers who carry these migrants drop them near the shore fearing the armed groups.

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The International Red Cross said on Wednesday the breakdown in Yemen society had left humanitarian organizations treating "chronic disease that nobody should die of", such as diabetes. And without a centralized authority in Yemen, there is no one to stop them from traveling onward through the war-torn country.

"This journey is especially hazardous during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean", an IOM release said.

More than 111,500 migrants arrived on Yemen's shores a year ago. "Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future", he said.

Many others also try to reach Europe via Libya and the Mediterranean Sea. A boat carrying Somali migrants was attacked in March, killing 42.

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