15 Ethiopian migrants die of hunger and thirst in stranded boat

Published August 1, 2019
Ethiopian migrants walk in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen on July 31. — Reuters
Ethiopian migrants walk in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen on July 31. — Reuters

DUBAI: At least 15 Ethiopian migrants died after their boat broke down and left them stranded in the Gulf of Aden for a week without food or water, a UN agency said.

“Over 90 Ethiopian migrants were stranded on a boat between Djibouti and Yemen for one week with no food and water leading to the death of at least 15 people,” the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) tweeted late on Tuesday.

“The migrants were travelling from Djibouti to Yemen when the smugglers’ boat broke down.

“Those on board reported that lives were lost due to hunger, thirst and intentional drowning, while some people died in Yemen, as they could not reach health facilities in time.” The IOM said it was treating one survivor, while the whereabouts of the majority of the survivors were not known.

It said they reached the Yemeni port city of Aden, but it was unclear how they got there.

Yemen has been embroiled in a years-long conflict between the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels and the government — backed by a Saudi-led military coalition — that has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

But the nation remains on an established route for migrants from the Horn of Africa, who typically first travel by land through Djibouti before undergoing perilous boat journeys across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen.

Many say they aim to travel by land to oil-rich Saudi Arabia to find work.

Often they do not survive the journey, dying at sea or at the hands of panicked smugglers.

Nearly 150,000 migrants arrived in Yemen last year, according to the UN.Survivors said some died from hunger and thirst and others drowned themselves, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said. A number reached Yemen but died before they could get medical help, it added.

Yemen is more than four years into a civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the impoverished nation to the brink of famine.

But thousands of migrants mostly from the Horn of Africa arrive there every year in the hopes of moving on to wealthy Gulf Arab states and escaping poverty and unemployment at home.“Those on board reported that lives were lost due to hunger, thirst & intentional drowning, while some people died in Yemen, as they could not reach health facilities in time,” it added.

The boat, which was originally carrying 90 Ethiopians, arrived in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Monday, the agency said, without giving details on how it got there. The whereabouts of most of the survivors was unknown, it added.

In May, the agency called for the release of more than 3,000 migrants, mostly Ethiopians, who it said were held in inhumane conditions in two detention centres in Aden and neighbouring Lahj, which are under the control of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.

A Western-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognised government ousted from power in Sanaa by the Iran-aligned Houthi group in late 2014.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2019

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