Maritime News

People smugglers force child migrants to drown

11 August 2017

Reports from Yemen indicate a new low in the inhuman disregard with which people smugglers treat migrants and refugees desperate to set sail for new countries. In this particular trade, the travellers are so desperate that they are prepared to travel to the war zone of Yemen to escape even more dire circumstances in their home countries – usually Ethiopia and Somalia.

As many as 69 migrants are feared to have been deliberately drowned on two consecutive days as people smugglers’ boats approached the Yemeni coast. The smugglers forced the travellers out of the boats before they reached the shore as they feared arrest by waiting officials. Hundreds of other migrants managed to reach safety after they were forced off the boats.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) discovered the uncovered bodies of 29 migrants in shallow graves on a beach following the first incident, and it believes that up to 50 migrants could have died in the second incident. The IOM estimated that the average age of the migrants was only 16.

IOM said around 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa for Yemen in the year to date, with especially hazardous voyages at this time of year because of strong winds in the Indian Ocean.

Meanwhile, the Italian government reported that the number of migrants making the crossing from Libya into Italian waters halved in July 2017 – falling to 11,459 from 23,524 in June. It is believed that the fall in numbers has resulted from tougher action by the Libyan navy and coastguard – encouraged by the European Union – to turn back migrant boats. 

However, the number of migrants making the shorter sea crossing from North Africa into Southern Spain has been rising. The IOM reports that three times more migrants have arrived by sea in Spain this year compared with 2016 – 11,849 people compared with 13,246 for the whole of last year. The numbers are far less that the total of 96,861 people who have landed in Italy so far this year. 

In a move to tackle the people smugglers, a German court has jailed two Syrians for their role in the deaths of 13 migrants in 2015, after an inflatable dinghy crossing from Turkey with at least 46 people hit a freighter off the Greek island of Lesbos. The men were jailed for four years and two-and-a-half years. The case came to court after one of the alleged smugglers was arrested in a German refugee camp. 



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