At least 20 people have drowned after smugglers threw dozens of migrants overboard as they sailed from Djibouti to Yemen, UN migration agency IOM said on Thursday.
This is the third time such incident is happening in the Gulf of Aden in the last six months, according to the International Organization for Migration, which said that survivors are receiving medical treatment in the port town of Obock, Djibouti.
“Wednesday’s tragedy is further proof that criminals continue to exploit people desperate to improve their lives for profit regardless of the consequences”, said IOM Djibouti Chief of Mission, Stephanie Daviot.
She called for the prosecution of smugglers and human traffickers, and appealed for the creation of legal migration pathways, “to allow people to pursue work opportunities abroad” without having to risk their lives.
200 crammed in ‘overloaded’ vessel
Their boat, carrying 200 migrants, left Oulebi in Djibouti at 2 a.m., according to Yvonne Ndege, spokeswoman for the U.N. International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
But survivors said that, half an hour later, the smugglers judged the boat was overloaded and threw at least 80 passengers off, Ndege said.
She said five bodies had been retrieved so far.
According to UN, every year, tens of thousands of mainly young east African migrants make the dangerous journey from countries such as Somalia and Ethiopia to Djibouti and on to war-torn Yemen, in search of work in the Gulf countries further north.
In 2019, IOM said that roughly 138,000 people made the journey in 2019, compared with 37,500 in 2020, an evidence to the far-reaching effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and its accompanying restrictions.
In January this year, a UN report said more than 2,500 migrants reached Yemen from Djibouti, and the UN agency has expressed concerns that more migrants will cross when coronavirus transmission measures are lifted, raising the prospect of future tragedies.
NEWS/PHOTO SOURCE: UN | IOM | News Agencies