Some 180 young migrants from the Horn of Africa were forced from a boat into rough seas off Yemen by smugglers on Thursday and 55 were presumed drowned, the U.N. migration agency said.
It was the second such incident in as many days off Shabwa province in southern Yemen, where 50 teenage African migrants were “deliberately drowned” on Wednesday by a smuggler who forced 120 passengers off his boat, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.
The IOM said it feared the incidents might mark the start of a new trend in people-smuggling that could lead to more deaths.
Twenty-nine dead bodies washed up on the shore after Wednesday’s tragedy while twenty-seven others made it alive to the shore, it said.
“They were shocked, exhausted and quite desperate,” Laurent de Boeck, the IOM Yemen Chief of Mission, told Reuters in an interview in Brussels.
Smugglers were pushing migrants into the sea away from the mainland for fear of government boats, amid reinforced border controls, or to avoid encountering armed groups on shore in the war-torn country. They were then going back to Africa to pick up more migrants.