55 migrants feared dead after being forced into rough seas by smugglers off Yemen

IOM staff assisting Somali and Ethiopian migrants, who were reportedly forced into the sea by smugglers, on a beach in Shabwa, Yemen on Aug 10, 2017.
IOM staff assisting Somali and Ethiopian migrants, who were reportedly forced into the sea by smugglers, on a beach in Shabwa, Yemen on Aug 10, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

GENEVA (Reuters) - Some 180 Ethiopian and Somali migrants were forced into rough seas off Yemen by smugglers early on Thursday (Aug 10) and 55 of them are presumed to have drowned, the UN migration agency said.

It was the second such incident in as many days off Shabwa province in southern Yemen, where 50 teenage African migrants were "deliberately drowned" on Wednesday by a smuggler who forced 120 passengers off his boat, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.

"We have seen five bodies and can confirm five dead... Fifty are still missing from this incident, so 55 are presumed dead," IOM spokeswoman Olivia Headon said.

"It may be the start of a new trend, smugglers know the situation is dangerous for them and they could be shot at, so they drop them near the shore."