Sunday, August 13, 2017

Yemen's Other Tragedy

This blog has frequently described the horror of the current Yemeni civil war so readers may well be surprised that there is a busy people smuggling business transporting African migrants into Yemen. Surely even the most cynical anti-immigration proponent must realise how desperate many people become to escape poverty and destitution that they are prepared to travel through a war-ravaged country, risking their lives in the hope of reaching a better life. Since January of this year, IOM estimates that around 55,000 migrants left the Horn of Africa to come to Yemen, most with the aim of trying to find better opportunities in the Gulf countries. More than 30,000 of those migrants are under the age of 18 from Somalia and Ethiopia, while a third are estimated to be female.

But even worse is happening. This migrant route has become even deadlier because of the tactics of the people smugglers.

A total of 300 migrants have reportedly been forced from boats over the past two days by smugglers off the coast of Yemen – many feared dead or missing, the United Nations migration agency,  the International Organization for Migration (IOM), has reported.
“The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them into the sea when he saw some ‘authority types’ near the coast,” said Laurent de Boeck, the Yemen Chief of Mission of the IOM.
“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. This is shocking and inhumane. The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future,” de Boeck added.
According to IOM, up to 180 migrants were reportedly thrown into the sea from a boat today by the smugglers. Five bodies have been recovered so far, and around 50 are reported missing. This latest incident comes barely 24 hours after smugglers forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the sea as they approached the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea, resulting in the drowning of around 50 migrants.
Shortly after 11 August’s tragedy, IOM staff found the shallow graves of 29 migrants on a beach in Shabwa, during a routine patrol. The dead had been quickly buried by those who survived the smuggler’s deadly actions. The approximate average age of the passengers on the boat was 16.
“The UN Secretary-General is heart-broken by this continuing tragedy,” his Spokesman St├ęphane Dujarric told reporters at the daily briefing in New York. “This is why he continues to stress that the international community must give priority to preventing and resolving a variety of situations which both generate mass movement and expose those already on the move to significant danger,” he added, underscoring the need to increase legal pathways for regular migration and offer credible alternatives to these dangerous crossings for people in need of international protection"
Survivors from both incidents described their journey with the smugglers to IOM:
“Throughout the journey, migrants had been brutally treated by the smugglers. They were forced to squat down for the entirety of the trip from Ambah Shore in Somalia, which sometimes takes between 24-36 hours, so that the smugglers could increase the number of people in the boat…
“… The migrants were not allowed to move inside the boat. They were not allowed a private or separate space to use the bathroom and had to urinate on themselves…
“… In some cases, the smugglers tied their hands so if something did happen, they would not be able to run or swim or save their lives. If one of the migrants accidentally moved, he would be beaten or even killed…
“…The migrants were not allowed to take enough food or water on the journey to fulfil their basic needs. They were only allowed to take one to two litres of water and one small meal. They also faced many dangerous during the journey in the windy season.”
 William Lacy Swing, IOM Director General, said“The utter disregard for human life by these smugglers, and all human smugglers worldwide, is nothing less than immoral. What is a teenager’s life worth? On this route to the Gulf countries, it can be as little as 100 USD." He continued,  “There is something fundamentally wrong with this world if countless numbers of children can be deliberately and ruthlessly drowned in the ocean, when they are no longer an easy source of income, and nothing is done to stop it from ever happening again.” It should never have happened in the first place, he added. “We should not have to wait for tragedies like these to show us that international cooperation must be enhanced to fight human smuggling – not just through policy but through real action along these smuggling routes.”

0 comments: