Catastrophic Migrant Boat Wreck off Yemen: 49 Confirmed Dead, 140 Still Missing

Mogadishu (AX) – A calamity off Yemen’s coast has led to the death of at least 49 migrants, with 140 more reported missing after their boat capsized on Monday, as confirmed by the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The boat, which set off from Somalia’s northern coast, was ferrying around 260 passengers, mostly from Somalia and Ethiopia, across the perilous 200-mile (320-kilometer) stretch of the Gulf of Aden. So far, rescue teams have saved 71 people, but with 140 still missing, hopes are dwindling. The deceased included 31 women and six children.

This catastrophe highlights the relentless and hazardous quest for better living conditions by thousands from East Africa and the Horn of Africa, despite Yemen’s ongoing turmoil and humanitarian crisis. According to IOM, the number of migrants taking this route has swelled from 27,000 in 2021 to over 90,000 in 2023, with about 380,000 migrants currently in Yemen.

Smugglers, using overcrowded and decrepit boats, often exploit these migrants during their voyage across the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden. IOM reports suggest at least 1,860 individuals have perished or vanished on this journey, including 480 who drowned. In April, 62 migrants died in two separate wrecks off Djibouti’s coast, trying to reach Yemen.

“The sinking of this boat starkly reminds us of the urgent need for global cooperation to tackle migration issues and ensure the safety of migrants,” stated IOM spokesperson Mohammedali Abunajela.

Despite the high risks, Yemen’s ongoing conflict and deplorable conditions in their homelands force many to undertake these treacherous voyages. Yemen remains a key crossing point for migrants aiming for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries in pursuit of employment and improved living conditions.

Survivors from Monday’s disaster narrated their harrowing experience, revealing how their boat, departing from Bossaso in Somalia, overturned near Alghareef Point in Yemen’s Shabwah governorate. Local fishermen and residents have been crucial in ongoing rescue efforts, offering much-needed help right after the incident.

IOM has sent mobile medical units to assist survivors, many of whom are dealing with trauma and injuries. The organization’s support includes first aid, mental health care, and facilitating further medical treatment for those in distress.

This incident contributes to the rising toll of migrant fatalities in the area and underscores the pressing need for improved search and rescue operations and stronger protections for migrants. The global community must address these critical issues, ensuring safe and lawful routes for those seeking refuge and better life opportunities.

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