Yemen, dozens of African migrants die in capsized boat

At least 25 corpses already recovered in the waters in front of Ras al-Ara. According to some testimonies on board there were up to 200 people: 150 would have drowned. Some 138,000 people travelled on the Djibouti-Yemen route in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic has reduced the numbers: 37 thousand in 2020 and just over 5 thousand this year.

Sana’a (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Dozens of African migrants are reported to have died in the capsizing and subsequent sinking of a boat off the coast of Yemen. A group of fishermen from the province of Lahi confirmed to AFP that they had recovered at least 25 bodies in the waters in front of Ras al-Ara, near the Bāb el-Mandeb strait.

Provincial officials report that a boat with between 160 and 200 people overturned last weekend. The International Organization for Migration (Iom) is verifying some stories that denounce the sinking of a ship containing a large number of migrants.

The Yemeni news portal Aden al-Ghad, reporting anonymous sources, speaks of at least 150 migrants drowned. The missing includes four citizens of Yemen. At its narrowest point, the Ras al-Ara area is 20 km from the African coast; it is often used by traffickers to transport goods or people to Djibouti. The strait also connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden.

Every year, tens of thousands of migrants from Africa try to reach the oil-rich nations of the Middle East in search of work. In 2019, about 138,000 people undertook an adventurous and difficult journey, which involves crossing the African coast to Yemen at sea. The number dropped drastically last year, to 37 thousand, due to the Covid-19 pandemic which halted the migratory flow for some time.

The IOM estimates, in January 2021 more than 2,500 migrants arrived in the Arab country, while in early March the overturning of an overcrowded boat threw 80 migrants into the sea, at least 20 of whom drowned. A few days later in a fire in a migrant centre in Sana’a, run by the Houthis, 30 people died and another 90 were injured. In April, another 44 died in the overturning of a smuggling boat on the Yemen-Djibouti route.

In 2021, about 5,100 migrants reached the shores of the Gulf nation, only to be stranded with little hope of cross-border work in Saudi Arabia. Most live in dire conditions, with no access to food, clean water, medical care and security.