Migrant boat sinks off Yemen coast, killing at least 39 people, U.N. immigration agency says

A boat carrying 260 migrants sank off Yemen’s coast on Monday, killing at least 39 people and leaving 150 others missing, the United Nations‘ international migration agency said Tuesday.

The International Organisation for Migration said in a message posted on social media that 71 people had survived the sinking. 

The nationalities of the migrants on the boat was not clear. Each year many tens of thousands of migrants from the Horn of Africa set off across the Red Sea in a bid to reach the oil-rich Gulf, escaping conflict, natural disasters or poor economic prospects.

Gulf of Aden area, connecting Red Sea and Arabian Sea, political map


In April, two boats sank off the coast of Djibouti just two weeks apart, leaving dozens dead.

The IOM said at the time it had recorded a total of 1,350 deaths on the migration route since 2014, not including this year. In 2023 alone, it said it documented at least 698 deaths on the route, including 105 lost at sea.

The IOM said on Tuesday it was „providing immediate aid to survivors.“

Those migrants who successfully reach Yemen often encounter further threats to their safety. The Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country has been mired in civil war for a decade.

Migration Global Deaths
A July 2019 file photo shows Ethiopian migrants walking on the shores of Ras al-Ara, Lahj, Yemen, after disembarking from a boat. A boat carrying migrants sank off Yemen’s coast on June 10, 2024, according to the U.N. immigration agency, killing at least 39 people and leaving dozens more missing.

Nariman El-Mofty/AP

Many are trying to reach Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries where they can work as laborers or domestic workers.

In August, Human Rights Watch accused Saudi border guards of killing „at least hundreds“ of Ethiopians trying to cross into the Gulf kingdom from Yemen between March 2022 and June 2023, using explosive weapons in some cases. Riyadh dismissed the group’s findings as „unfounded and not based on reliable sources.“

Saudi border guards killed, maimed hundreds of Ethiopian migrants, Human Rights Watch says


The IOM said last month that, despite the many dangers of the migration route, the number of migrants arriving in Yemen „tripled from 2021 to 2023, soaring from approximately 27,000 to over 90,000.“

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