It was reported that a boat carrying African migrants sank off the coast of Yemen, amid fears that dozens were killed in the accident.
Fishermen in the Yemeni province of Lahj told AFP that they pulled 25 bodies out of the water near the Ras al-Ara area.
A local official indicated that a boat carrying between 160 and 200 people capsized in the area two days ago.
The International Organization for Migration said it was verifying reports that a boat carrying a large number of migrants had sunk.
“IOM teams are in the area and ready to deal with the needs of survivors,” she wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Yemeni “Aden Al-Ghad” news website quoted sources as saying that about 150 migrants have drowned, and that four Yemenis are among the missing.
Ras al-Ara is a coastal extension used by people smugglers, located east of the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a 20 km wide waterway separating Yemen and Djibouti and linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Horn of Africa – mostly Ethiopians and Somalis – have crossed the waterway into Yemen in an attempt to reach neighboring Saudi Arabia.
The smugglers’ boats are usually overcrowded and unseaworthy, making the journey risky.
In April, at least 44 people were killed after a boat used by people smugglers capsized on its way from Yemen to Djibouti.
Once in Yemen – which has been wracked by years of war – smugglers hold many migrants for days or even months until their families pay the ransom, according to the International Organization for Migration.
The organization says that the number of migrants arriving in Yemen has decreased since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, with 5,100 people arriving so far this year, compared to a total of 35,000 people in 2020 and 127,000 people in 2019.
However, more than 32,000 migrants have found themselves stranded in the country, with the border with Saudi Arabia closed and job opportunities limited. Many live in dangerous conditions, often without access to food, shelter, security and medical care.
Yemen was devastated by the conflict that escalated in 2015, when the Houthi group took control of large parts of the country and a Saudi-led coalition launched a military operation to support President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
Reports said the fighting has killed more than 110,000 people, and what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 12 million people dependent on food aid and half of children under five suffering from malnutrition.