Seen as a portal to better lives in the Middle East and Europe, Yemen is the target of tens of thousands of migrants from the war-torn Horn of Africa each year.Hundreds have diedattempting to cross the Red Sea on unreliable and overcrowded smuggler boats.
In June, 60 migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia — along with two Yemeni crew members —drowned when their vessel sankoff the Yemeni coast. The previous March,42 African migrants diedwhen their boat capsized off the coast of Beer Ali, in Yemen’s southern Shabwa province.
In October theU.N. Refugee Agencyreported more migrant deaths at sea in 2014 than in the previous three years combined. A majority of those killed were Africans seeking asylum in Yemen due to conflict, drought and lack of economic opportunity. The report notes how many smugglers overcrowd vessels and throw migrants overboard in emergencies to avoid capsizing or detection.
“There have been frequent reports of mistreatment, abuse, rape and torture and the increasingly cruel measures being adopted by smuggling rings seem to account for the increase in deaths at sea,” William Spindler, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said.
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