160 Ethiopian Migrants Forced into the Seas off Yemen by Smugglers Today, Following Death of Up to 50 Yesterday
IOM staff assist Somali, Ethiopian migrants who were forced into the sea by smugglers. (Photo: IOM 2017)
Aden, 11Aug 2017 – 160 Ethiopian migrants were violently forced into the sea off Yemen’s coast this morning (10/08). This comes one day after the presumed death of 50 Ethiopian and Somali migrants during a similar incident. As with yesterday, this tragedy took place off the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea – although in a different location and closer to the shore.
Staff from IOM, the UN Migration Agency, found six bodies on the beach – two male and four female. An additional 13 Ethiopian migrants are still missing (unaccounted for). IOM provided emergency medical assistance to 57 migrants today. IOM also provided food, water and other emergency relief assistance to the surviving migrants. 84 migrants (in addition to the 57) left the beach before IOM arrived.
Every year, thousands of migrants risk their lives on this life-threatening route towards the Gulf countries through Yemen, a country in crisis. The journey and the situation in Yemen is extremely dangerous for migrants. The psychological effect these experiences have on children can be enormous. This is why IOM has psychologists embedded in their patrolling teams on Yemen’s beaches. The deadly actions of the smugglers today bring the total number of presumed dead over the last two day close to 70. More information on yesterday’s incident can be found in our previous release. IOM is aware of 114 dead or missing in 2017 off the coast of Yemen (Gulf of Aden and in the Red Sea en route to Yemen) and 109 in 2016. The actual total is likely to be higher.
Survivors from both incidents described their journey with the smugglers to IOM: Throughout the journey, migrants had been brutally treated by the smugglers. They were forced to squat down for the entirety of the trip from Ambah Shore in Somalia, which sometimes takes between 24-36 hours, so that the smugglers could increase the number of people in the boat. The migrants were not allowed to move inside the boat. They were not allowed a private or separate space to use the bathroom and had to urinate on themselves. In some cases, the smugglers tied their hands so if something did happen, they would not be able to run or swim or save their lives. If one of the migrants accidentally moved, he would be beaten or even killed. The migrants were not allowed to take enough food or water on the journey to fulfill their basic needs. They were only allowed to take one to two litres of water and one small meal. They also faced many dangerous during the journey in the windy season.
Migrant survivors from other smuggling journeys have told IOM that usually smuggler networks coordinate when migrants arrive in Yemen so that they would have a pick up location. Some migrants who are able to pay extra money are taken by car to unknown destinations. Others, who do not have money, walk for long distances, without knowing where they are headed.
“Recently, smugglers have been pushing migrants out of the boats, fearing that the security forces might arrest them. This is what happened the past two days in Shabwa,” said Lina Koussa, IOM’s Emergency Response Officer in Aden.
“We condemn the acts of smugglers off the coast of Yemen – 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants were forced from a boat yesterday, and another 160 today, the death toll is still unknown,” said William Lacy Swing, IOM Director General.
“The utter disregard for human life by these smugglers, and all human smugglers worldwide, is nothing less than immoral. What is a teenager’s life worth? On this route to the Gulf countries, it can be as little as 100 USD. There is something fundamentally wrong with this world if countless numbers of children can be deliberately and ruthlessly drowned in the ocean, when they are no longer an easy source of income, and nothing is done to stop it from ever happening again,” continued DG Swing.
“It should never have happened in the first place. We should not have to wait for tragedies like these to show us that international cooperation must be enhanced to fight human smuggling – not just through policy but through real action along these smuggling routes. This is a busy and extremely dangerous smuggling route. Yemen is suffering one of today’s most dire humanitarian crises. Countries experiencing conflict or crisis like Yemen need greater support to reinforce law enforcement and humanitarian border management with the aim of protecting vulnerable migrants like these 16 year old kids. My thoughts are with their families and loved ones in Ethiopia and Somalia. I am making a promise to them that IOM will not forget them and will continue to fight to protect the rights and dignity of future generations of migrants,” concluded DG Swing.