Dozens of migrants probably died in a sinking off the southern coast of Yemen

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Dozens of migrants may have died in the sinking of a boat off the southern coast of Yemen: an official from the province of Lahij, Jalil Ahmed Ali, told Agence France-Presse news agency that there was a shipwreck two days ago and that on board the sunken boat there were between 160 and 200 people, according to the words of some Yemeni human traffickers.

A group of fishermen told Agence France-Presse that they recovered the bodies of 25 people at sea about 16 kilometers from Ras al Ara, known as the final destination of trips organized by human traffickers to bring migrants from the Horn of Africa. – that is, from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia – in Yemen. Residents of the Ras al Ara area told Reuters that some bodies were found on the beaches.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has confirmed that there has been a shipwreck, but is still verifying these stories and trying to understand if there are any survivors. Abd Rabou Mehwali, former mayor of Ras al Ara and the internationally recognized deputy minister of education of the Yemeni government, told the Associated Press that the wrecked boat left Djibouti over the weekend.

In recent years, hundreds of thousands of people from the Horn of Africa, mainly Ethiopians and Somalis, have reached Yemen aboard makeshift boats made available by human traffickers in an attempt to get to Saudi Arabia, a country whose economy is highly dependent on foreign labor, and other Persian Gulf countries looking for work. The Ras al Ara area is located east of the Bab al Mandab strait, 20 kilometers of sea that separates Yemen from Djibouti and connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Although the sea journey faced by migrants from the Horn of Africa to reach Yemen is shorter than those that take place in the Mediterranean Sea, it is still risky, also due to the conditions of the boats used to undertake the crossing: in April at least 44 migrants they died in another shipwreck. Things are very difficult for migrants even once they arrive on the mainland: in Yemen there is a civil war that has been going on for six years and the country is experiencing what according to the United Nations is the worst ongoing humanitarian crisis in the world.

According to IOM investigations, some migrants are held for days or even months by human traffickers until their relatives pay a ransom. More than 32,000 people who arrived in Yemen in this way are now stranded in the country and are struggling to find food (among the Yemenis themselves, about 12 million people have to rely on humanitarian aid to feed themselves), sleep indoors and receive health care.Migration flows have slowed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, but have not stopped: since the beginning of the year, according to IOM data, 5,100 migrants have arrived in Yemen.

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