The death toll in the migrant boat accident in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti has gone up to 42, the International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday, in the second such tragedy within a month.
Sixteen children were among the dead, spokeswoman Yvonne Ndege said, adding that 14 people survived. “The smugglers have not yet been found,” she said.
Survivors reported that the boat capsized in rough seas on Monday at at approximately 4:00am (01:00 GMT) after leaving Yemen with some 60 passengers on board, an IOM official in Djibouti told AFP, asking not to be named.
“The migrants were being transported by people smugglers,” Mohammed Abdiker, the IOM’s regional director for East Africa and the Horn of Africa, posted on Twitter on Monday.
“Apprehending and prosecuting people traffickers and smugglers who exploit the vulnerabilities of migrants must become a priority. Too many lives needlessly lost.”
Perilous journey for migrants
The boat capsized in seas north of the Djibouti port town of Obock, a major transit point for thousands of African migrants in the region trying to reach the Gulf countries.
It follows a similar accident on March 4 when 20 people drowned after smugglers threw dozens of migrants overboard during a journey between Djibouti and Yemen across the Gulf of Aden.
At least 200 migrants were packed on board that vessel when it left Djibouti. But about 30 minutes into the voyage the smugglers panicked about the weight on board and threw 80 people into the sea before turning back towards land.
Two similar incidents last October killed at least 50 migrants.
Every year, thousands of migrants make perilous boat journeys from the Horn of Africa to war-torn Yemen, many with the aim of travelling overland to Gulf nations in search of work.
It is believed thousands of migrants are stranded in Yemen, where a years-long conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The strait that separates Djibouti from Yemen is unusual in that it sees migrants and refugees passing in both directions – boatloads of Yemenis fleeing to Africa to escape war, while others head in the opposite direction carrying African migrants to the Arabian Peninsula in search of better opportunities.