GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — The United Nations migration agency reports that thousands of Ethiopian migrants continue to make the perilous journey to war-torn Yemen in search of better economic opportunities despite the dangerous security conditions.
Despite the ongoing war and general insecurity in Yemen, the country remains a major transit point for thousands of migrants from the Horn of Africa.
Desperately poor migrants risk their lives to cross the Mandab Strait and reach Yemen, from where they move on to the Gulf countries in hopes of finding work.
The International Organization for Migration reports more than 87,000 migrants, most of them Africans, arrived in Yemen last year.These journeys were facilitated by smuggling networks.
IOM spokesman Joel Millman said this human trafficking continues to flourish.
He said four boats, carrying 602 migrants, mainly men and women from Ethiopia, arrived off the coast of Yemen Friday. He said three boats reportedly arrived with all their passengers on board. Millman said that was not the case for the fourth vessel, which initially had 117 people on board.
"Only 95 arrived. We understand that passengers on the boat had been dropped into deep water and forced to swim to shore. No bodies have been recovered, but 22 remain unaccounted for…Our staff says it is extremely unusual to have four boats with this number of migrants arriving at the same time, at the same location," he said.
Most of the Ethiopians head to Yemen from Djibouti. Millman told VOA that IOM staff there try to inform the migrants of the dangers that lie ahead, including the strong currents in the strait. Unfortunately, he said most people do not pay attention to these warnings.
Of the more than 100 migrants who arrive in Djibouti every day, he said only about 10 agree to go home and not make the dangerous sea crossing to Yemen.