Smugglers forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into rough seas off Yemen on Wednesday, leaving 29 dead and 22 missing, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said. "More unsafe routes are being used by smugglers", it said, after carrying out a six-day assessment of the Tenere desert and in Niger's border region with Libya, where migrants wait to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe.
The IOM statement says smugglers recently have begun pushing migrants out of boats out of fear of arrest.
Migrants, a lot of them Ethiopians, try to make their way to the oil-rich Gulf countries.
But economic and environmental factors in Somalia and Ethiopia, where most of the migrants come from, have left young people feeling there is no future for them at home. The war-torn country acts as an easy passage for smugglers because it has no central migration authority that can prevent such activities.
The passengers' average age was around 16, the IOM said. Numerous boat's passengers were teenagers. "They drop them near the shore and turn around and get more".
After the smugglers dumped their human cargo, she says they turned back to Somalia to pick up more people and bring them back on the extremely unsafe, deadly voyage.
"We have the five bodies for sure. but we believe that there are certainly more than 50 who are still in the sea", Laurent de Boeck, the IOM's chief of mission in Yemen, told The Associated Press. "People pay this small amount of money, which is actually affordable for them, but on the journey the smugglers rape, torture, and abuse them".
More than 111,500 migrants landed on Yemen's shores last year, up from around 100,000 the year before, according to the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, a grouping of global agencies that monitors migration in the area.
As per reports, more than 111,000 migrants arrived on the shores of Yemen a year ago and in 2015 the figure was 100,000. "So, the migrants had a choice", she said.
Many others also try to reach Europe via Libya and the Mediterranean Sea.