The bodies of 25 migrants were recovered off the coast of Yemen on Monday after the boat carrying up to 200 of them capsized, Reuters reports.
Fishermen who found the bodies said that they were floating in waters so rife with human trafficking that local people call it the “Gate of Hell”.
“The boat overturned two days ago and was carrying between 160 and 200 people,” said Jalil Ahmed Ali from the Lahij provincial authority, citing information given by Yemeni smugglers. The fate of the other people on board was unclear.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirmed that a boat sank in the area but said it was still trying to establish the details of the incident.
Despite the grinding war in impoverished Yemen, African migrants continue to make the dangerous trip there in the hopes of finding work in Saudi Arabia and other neighbouring oil-rich states whose economies rely on millions of foreign labourers.
“We found 25 bodies of Africans who drowned when a boat carrying dozens of them sank off the Yemeni shores,” said one of the fishermen.
“We saw the bodies floating in the water 16km from Ras al-Ara,” added another.
Migrants often find themselves stranded in Yemen, which is mired in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis after six years of conflict.
In recent months, dozens of migrants have died in the Bab al-Mandab strait, a major route for international trade but also for human trafficking.
The IOM reported this month that 5,100 immigrants have arrived in Yemen so far this year, while 35,000 travelled in 2020 and 127,000 in 2019 before the outbreak of Covid-19 which suppressed demand for labour in the Gulf states.
The IOM often sends migrants back to their home countries from Yemen. But it said in April that more than 32,000 migrants, mostly from Ethiopia, were still stranded in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country.