More than 50 Ethiopians and Somalis are feared drowned off Yemen, allegedly after smugglers forced them to jump ship. It's the second such incident reported in two days; the first claimed at least 50 lives.

Five bodies had been sighted and 50 other boat migrants were still missing "presumed dead," a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM,) the UN-affiliated agency based in Geneva told Reuters on Thursday.

More than 180 people were forced off a boat trafficking migrants near Shabwa province, southern Yemen.

The incident followed roughly a day after smugglers pushed around 120 people off a boat near the coast of Shabwa, resulting in around 50 migrants drowning - with another 22 still missing. On Wednesday, IOM staff in Yemen said they had found the shallow graves of 29 migrants, with an average age of only 16, buried by survivors on a beach in the province.

Doctors Without Borders' mission in the Mediterranean

Survivors, thought to number about 70, told the IOM that smugglers had pushed them into the sea after seeing "authority types" on the coast. The smugglers then returned to Somalia.

A further 22 boat occupants among Wednesday's total of 120 were still missing, the IOM added, describing the practice as "shocking and inhumane."

A route to the Gulf states

Since January, an estimated 55,000 migrants left the Horn of Africa for war-torn Yemen, the majority being under the age of 18, according to the IOM. Most of them are seeking to travel on from Yemen to oil-rich Gulf states in search of work.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea is particularly dangerous because of strong currents and high winds.

Yemen, which was already a poor country, has been crippled fortwo years by a war between Shiite Huthi rebels and President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi, whose government is backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

The International Red Cross said on Wednesday the breakdown in Yemen society had left humanitarian organizations treating "chronic disease that nobody should die of," such as diabetes.

Millions were at risk of famine and aid groups were concentrating on battling cholera. The epidemic had already claimed 1,900 lives since April, according to the Red Cross.

Despite the conflict, migrants still seek transit through Yemen, often towards its land border with Saudi Arabia.

ipj/msh (Reuters, AFP)

First published August 10, 2017

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