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In 2 days, smugglers deliberately forced hundreds of migrants off boats near Yemen

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Roughly 180 migrants were forced from a boat by smugglers off the coast of Yemen, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Thursday. This comes one day after smugglers deliberately drowned around 50 migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia into the sea as they neared the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate on the Arabian Sea.

The news is still developing around the status of the 180 migrants. But IOM staff said they found the “shallow graves of 29 migrants” on a beach in Shabwa after the incident on Wednesday, buried by survivors. Many of the boat’s passengers were teenagers.  The agency provided health checks and assistance to surviving migrants, adding that 22 migrants were reportedly missing and unaccounted for.

“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,” Laurent de Boeck, the IOM’s chief of mission in Yemen, said in a statement. “They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route.”

Passengers on Wednesday’s deadly journey told the UN migration agency that smugglers had returned to Somalia to pick up more migrants and bring them along the same route.

The tragic incidents of this week aren’t rare, but they do speak to the desperate conditions that migrants face in their home countries that drive them to put their lives in the hands of smugglers. For some context, Ethiopia is still reeling from the 2015-2016 El Niño-induced drought, which has been worsened by little rainfall this year. That in turn has led to famine. At least 5.6 million people require emergency food assistance, while some 2.7 million children and pregnant and lactating mothers were identified for moderate acute malnutrition, according to ReliefWeb. Somalia is facing an “impossible fight” against cholera– the worst in five years–with more than 1,098 deaths so far. Because it lacks a functioning government, the country has little infrastructure in place to prevent unsanitary conditions and the cholera situation from worsening. Roughly 6.2 million Somalis also need aid, according to All Africa.

Beyond this incident, smugglers have tried other unspeakable cruel tactics that prey on people in pursuit of the false promises of freedom. An unscrupulous Turkish firm sold counterfeit life jackets stuffed with heavy material rather than buoyancy aids. Last year, the Italian navy saved migrants facing suffocating conditions in a crowded dinghy with some people locked beneath the top deck. Inhumane human smuggling practices doesn’t just lead to deadly results when it comes to migrants fleeing African countries. At least ten people were found dead in a tractor-trailer without ventilation at a San Antonio-area Walmart parking lot in Texas last month.

Global displacement is at a record high, and the UN estimates that about 65.6 million people are currently displaced due to things like famine, war, and political upheaval.

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