Boatloads of refugees and migrants are either dead or missing after being “deliberately drowned” by smugglers off the coast of Yemen.
According to Al Jazeera, groups of asylum seekers had been thrown into the Yemen Sea twice within 24 hours.
Patrol teams from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) found approximately five bodies Thursday morning and are on the hunt for at least 50 more who are still missing.
"It is indeed a very dramatic situation," Laurent de Boeck, the agency's Yemen chief of mission, reportedly told Al Jazeera. "They were in a boat with smugglers, who dropped them at sea before arriving at the shore. Some people have disappeared. But others were actually buried by their friends on the beaches."
“Exhausted and under shock” survivors reported the incident to authorities. According to de Boeck, “this situation is new,” and this is the “first time” his agency has dealt with people being forced off smugglers’ boats before reaching land.
"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," de Boeck said on Wednesday after the first time it happened.
In Wednesday's incident, more than 120 people were forced off the boat into the open waters just before reaching Yemen's coast. The average age of the passengers was just 16, according to IOM.
By Thursday, 180 more asylum-seekers were forcefully dumped at sea, according to the United Nations News Centre.
This heartbreaking ordeal is a stark reminder that the reality faced by civilians from war-torn countries is that every decision they make — whether to flee or stay in their homelands — is a matter of life and death.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Reuters, ABDULJABBAR ZEYAD