UN: 34 migrants drown off Djibouti after boat capsizes


NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Thirty-four migrants have died after their boat capsized off the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, the International Organization for Migrants said Monday.

IOM regional director Mohammed Abdiker in Twitter posts said the migrants were being transported by smugglers. He didn’t elaborate.

It is not immediately clear what countries the migrants who drowned were from, but many people seek to make that voyage from Ethiopia and Somalia. Fleeing poverty and other difficulties, they often seek to reach first Yemen, and then rich Persian Gulf nations. But the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges often force some to turn back.

Olivia Headon, the IOM’s spokeswoman in Yemen, said these migrants were returning from Yemen because of the dire situation in the Arab world’s poorest, war-wrecked country.

“They were so desperate to leave Yemen they put their lives back into hands of unscrupulous smugglers,” she said.

In March, at least 20 migrants died after smugglers threw 80 people overboard during a voyage from Djibouti to Yemen.

In October, at least eight other migrants drowned after smugglers forced them off a boat near Djibouti. In 2017, up to 50 migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia drowned when a smuggler forced them into the sea off Yemen’s coast. And in 2018, at least 30 migrants and refugees died when a boat capsized off Yemen, with survivors reporting gunfire.