Tragedy struck migrants trying to cross from the Horn of Africa to find employment in Yemen and the Gulf, when their vessel capsized in high waves as it approached its destination in the early hours of 6 June.
UN Migration Agency staff were on the scene providing assistance to the traumatized survivors. IOM staff reported that 46 migrants had drowned, 37 men and 9 women. A further 16 remain missing, presumed dead.
At least 100 migrants crammed onto a smuggler’s boat that left the port of Bossaso, Somalia on 5 June. They were reportedly all Ethiopian, 83 men and 17 women. After travelling through the night across the short but treacherous Gulf of Aden, their boat approached the shore at 5 am on 6 June.
Survivors said the passengers who were without lifejackets in the smuggler’s boat started panicking as high waves struck close to the shore. As the boat took on water, they were pitched headlong into the rough seas where so many succumbed.
“The Gulf of Aden’s shameful migration tragedy is one that is hidden in plain sight,” said Mohammed Abdiker, Director of Department of Operations and Emergencies.
“Over 7,000 poor migrants take this perilous journey every month; some 100,000 took it just last year. They are treated appallingly and go through horrendous conditions. This has to end,” he added.
IOM staff went to the scene and were providing medical assistance, health, food and psychosocial support to the survivors. The ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent ensured the burial of the deceased.
This tragedy is the latest of many to have befallen migrants traveling to or from Yemen.
Earlier this week IOM helped some 101 Ethiopian migrants leave Yemen through Hudaydah Port as clashes grew closer to the area. The migrants were brought to Djibouti after hours of delays on the high seas and are now being cared for. IOM is providing transport assistance at all stages of the journey in cooperation with its Government partners.
That group included nearly 51 women and 33 children, who had become stranded in the country and are among the most vulnerable cases from a larger group of about 300 migrants stuck in detention.
Both while travelling to and in Yemen, migrants are routinely abused by smugglers and other criminals, including physical and sexual abuse, torture for ransom, arbitrary detention for long periods of time, forced labour and even death. Some migrants get caught up in the conflict, sustaining injuries or dying from shelling, and some are taken to detention centres, both official and unofficial.
Through its Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme, IOM is providing transportation and return support from Yemen to the migrants’ final destinations in their home countries.
In 2017, IOM helped around 2,900 migrants and refugees return home from Yemen: 73 per cent of them were Somalis, 25 per cent Ethiopians and 2 per cent other nationalities. IOM has also helped 298 Ethiopian and 1,064 Somali migrants and refugees return home voluntarily to date (30/05) in 2018. Assisted spontaneous returns of Somali refugees are carried out in collaboration with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
In Yemen, IOM provides additional humanitarian assistance to migrants, including health care, shelter and aid items and psychosocial support, while also supporting displaced and conflict affected Yemenis. In Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti, IOM also provides emergency support to migrants starting out their journeys, while in transit and when returning.”