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6 migrants dead, over 50 missing off Yemen

UN staff assisted surviving Somali and Ethiopian migrants on a beach in Shabwa, Yemen.

International Organization for Migration via European PressPhoto Agency

UN staff assisted surviving Somali and Ethiopian migrants on a beach in Shabwa, Yemen.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Six migrants are dead and 13 remain missing after smugglers forced them from a boat off the coast of Yemen in the second such drowning in two days, the UN migration agency said Thursday.

The International Organization for Migration’s statement came less than a day after it said up to 50 migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia were ‘‘deliberately drowned’’ by a smuggler in a separate boat off Yemen.

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Up to 180 migrants were forced from the boat Thursday morning, the IOM said.

‘‘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.

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The narrow waters between the Horn of Africa and Yemen have been a popular migration route despite Yemen’s conflict. Migrants, most of them Ethiopians, try to make their way to oil-rich Gulf countries.

‘‘They are not aware at all that there is a war. Sometimes they don’t even believe us when we explain it to them,’’ de Boeck said. Just by making land they feel ‘‘they are halfway to wealthy.’’

In the first drownings on Wednesday, a smuggler forced more than 120 migrants into the sea as they approached Yemen’s coast, the IOM said.

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Its staffers found the shallow graves of 29 migrants on a beach in Shabwa during a routine patrol. At least 22 migrants remained missing.

The passengers’ average age was around 16, the IOM said.

‘‘The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them to the sea when he saw some ‘authority types’ near the coast,’’ de Boeck said Wednesday. ‘‘They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route.’’

The IOM says about 55,000 migrants have left Horn of Africa nations for Yemen since January, with most from Somalia and Ethiopia as they flee drought and unrest at home.

Many leave from points in Djibouti, with some departing from Somalia. A third of them are estimated to be women.

Migrants travelling from Djibouti pay about $150, while migrants traveling from northern Somalia pay between $200 and $250 because the route to Yemen is longer.

De Boeck expressed regret that the European Union is more focused on the migration routes on the Mediterranean, which also have proven to be deadly as smugglers set flimsy boats packed with migrants adrift toward Europe.

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