A human-trafficker “deliberately drowned” up to 50 Somali and Ethiopian migrants in the sea off Yemen’s coast, the United Nations migration agency said.
The migrants are reported to have been teenagers – of an average age of 16 –trying to reach the Gulf countries via Yemen on Wednesday.
In a statement, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) described the drownings in the Arabian Sea as “shocking and inhumane.”
“The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them to the sea when he saw some ‘authority types’ near the coast,” CNN reports Laurent de Boeck, the Yemen mission chief for IOM to say.
“They also told us that the smuggler already has returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route.”
The UN agency said that shortly after the drowning incident, IOM staff found shallow graves of 29 migrants on a beach in Shabwa.
“The dead had been quickly buried by those who survived the smuggler’s deadly actions.”
The migrants were escaping the political instability and violence plaguing their nations.
According to the IOM, 55,000 migrants have departed the Horn of Africa to come to Yemen since January.
More than 30,000 of those migrants are under age 18 and from Somalia or Ethiopia, while a third are estimated to be female.
Smugglers work in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Medics provided care to dozens of survivors, but some left the beach before help arrived. Twenty-two people are missing.