At least 33 African migrants drowned off the eastern coast of Yemen after smugglers operating the boat forced the passengers into the sea, the spokesman of International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Yemen told Xinhua Sunday.
“The victims, including 22 men and 11 women, drowned on Wednesday off the Yemeni southeastern coast of Shabwa,” the spokesman Saaba al-Mualemi said.
He said the 33 migrants were part of 360 African refugees and migrants overcrowded onboard two small boats.
“The smugglers of one of the boats opened fire and forced the passengers to jump out of the boat few kilometers away from the shore,” al-Mualemi said, adding that some managed to swim and survived, while “Yemeni rescue teams pulled the 33 victims.”
In May, about 46 African refugees drowned off Shabwa, according to the IOM.
Humanitarian situations have been deteriorated in Yemen since the poorest Arab country fell in the deadly civil war in late 2014.
The African refugees and migrants, mostly from Somalia and Ethiopia, have frequently fled their countries in the horn of Africa to Yemen, from which they later infiltrate through mountainous and desert borders to neighboring oil-rich Arab Gulf states for better living conditions or works.