33 African migrants drown off Yemen

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REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

SANAA (Xinhua) – At least 33 African migrants drowned off the eastern coast of Yemen after smugglers operating the boat forced the passengers into sea, the spokesman of International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

“The victims, including 22 men and 11 women, drowned on Wednesday off the Yemeni southeastern coast of Shabwa,” the spokesman Saaba al-Mualemi said.

He said the 33 migrants were part of 360 African refugees and migrants overcrowded onboard two small boats.

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“The smugglers of one of the boats opened fire and forced the passengers to jump out of the boat few kilometers away from the shore,” Mr al-Mualemi said, adding that some managed to swim and survived, while “Yemeni rescue teams pulled the 33 victims.”

In May, about 46 African refugees drowned off Shabwa, according to the IOM.

Humanitarian situations have worsened in Yemen since the poorest Arab country fell in deadly civil war in late 2014.

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