At least 70 Ethiopians were killed when a boat capsized off Yemen’s western coast due to strong winds and rough seas, officials said Sunday, according to The Associated Press. The sinking, which reportedly occurred on Saturday, happened off the Red Sea port city of al-Makha.
The boat was bound for Yemen, which typically acts as an entry point to wealthier countries in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia and Oman for poor East African migrants. Human traffickers are known to overload rickety boats making for a risky crossing over the Red Sea, Reuters reported. According to an October report by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 200 people have died at sea in 2014 alone while trying to reach Yemen, which currently hosts 246,000 refugees from several countries.
"There have been frequent reports of mistreatment, abuse, rape and torture and the increasingly cruel measures being adopted by smuggling rings seem to account for the increase in deaths at sea," William Spindler, a spokesperson for UNHCR said, according to the report, adding: "We also call on countries of origin, transit and destination in the region to step up their cooperation in managing the flows of migration. At the same time they must pay due attention to the protection needs of refugees, asylum-seekers and other vulnerable groups such as women and minors."
In October, 64 migrants and three crew members travelling from Somalia died when their vessel sank in the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen, the UNHCR report said. In June, 62 migrants and two Yemeni crew members died when their boat sank during a crossing in the Gulf of Aden. In March, 42 migrants from Africa died while attempting the passage, according to Reuters.