6 migrants dead, 13 remain missing off Yemen

African migrants crossing the Libya sea

African migrants crossing the Libya sea

Some 180 young Ethiopian and Somali migrants, many weakened by hunger and drought in their home countries, were forced from a boat into rough seas off Yemen by smugglers on Thursday and 55 were presumed drowned, the United Nations migration agency said.

The International Organization for Migration said Thursday's drownings occurred a day after around 50 migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia were "deliberately drowned" by a smuggler in another boat off Yemen. The UN agency said 160 Ethiopian migrants were violently forced into the Arabian Sea on Thursday. Twenty-two people are missing.

The migrants reported that 100 other survivors had already left the beach.

Thirteen people remained unaccounted for, the spokesperson said.

The UN chief reiterated his message to the global community to prevent and resolve situations which generate mass movement and expose those already on the move to significant danger.

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"We must also increase legal pathways for regular migration and offer credible alternative to these unsafe crossings for people in need of global protection", Mr Dujarric said.

The war in Yemen has left over 8,300 people dead and displaced millions since 2015, but the impoverished country continues to draw migrants from the Horn of Africa seeking work in prosperous Gulf countries further north. According to the IOM, a high percentage of the migrants making the journey to Yemen are under the age of 18. "Sometimes they don't even believe us when we explain it to them".

UN Secretary-General Antonio has said he was "heartbroken" after smugglers pushed mostly African migrants off boats heading for Yemen twice in two days.

Shortly after the drowning, IOM staff found shallow graves of 29 migrants on a beach in Shabwa, the United Nations agency said. "Fifty are still missing from this incident, so 55 are presumed dead", IOM spokeswoman Olivia Headon told Reuters.

The average age of the people headed to Yemen on Wednesday was 16.

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Despite the war, smugglers - who are highly active in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden - have continued to offer passage through Yemen, which shares a land border with Saudi Arabia.

It says the journey is particularly risky at this time of year due to high winds in the Indian Ocean. Most of the people on the boat were from Ethiopia and Somalia.

"Some are coming for the third time". They were then going back to Africa to pick up more migrants. "They are between 12 and 25 years old".

Yemen is one of a few routes that the migrants use to reach other countries.

Mr De Boeck expressed regret that the European Union is more focused on Mediterranean routes where smugglers have also cast migrants trying to reach Europe adrift. A lot of them seek work in the oil-rich states.

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Yemen's conflict itself is a deadly risk.

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