UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Smugglers have thrown some 280 migrants into the sea off the coast of Yemen in the last two days, causing more than 50 to drown and leaving over 30 missing, the U.N. migration agency said Thursday.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the migrants who were forced from boats in two separate “deeply troubling” incidents were hoping to reach countries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen.
The International Organization for Migration said Wednesday that up to 50 migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia were “deliberately drowned” by a smuggler off Yemen. The U.N. agency said 160 Ethiopian migrants were violently forced into the Arabian Sea on Thursday.
The IOM said in a statement late Thursday that its staff found six bodies on the beach — two male and four female — and 13 people are still missing. It said 84 migrants left the beach before IOM staff arrived while it provided emergency medical assistance as well as food and water to 57 surviving migrants.
Dujarric said the situation for migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara desert are “just as heartbreaking” as the tragedy unfolding off Yemen.
He said 2,405 people have died or disappeared during their attempts to cross the Mediterranean and more than 265 people have died or were missing while traveling across the Sahara trying to reach the sea.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is heartbroken by this continuing tragedy,” Dujarric said.
“This is why he continues to stress that the international community must give priority to preventing and resolving a variety of situations which both generate mass movement and expose those already on the move to significant danger,” the U.N. spokesman said.
“We must also increase legal pathways for regular migration and offer credible alternative to these dangerous crossings for people in need of international protection,” Dujarric said.
The narrow waters between the Horn of Africa and Yemen have been a popular migration route despite Yemen’s conflict. Migrants, most of them Ethiopians, try to make their way to oil-rich Gulf countries in hopes of finding jobs.
Laurent de Boeck, the IOM’s chief of mission in Yemen, told The Associated Press on Thursday that some of the migrants trying to reach Yemen “are not aware at all that there is a war. Sometimes they don’t even believe us when we explain it to them.”
Just by making land they feel “they are halfway to wealthy,” he said.
In the first drownings on Wednesday, a smuggler forced more than…