ADEN — Forty-two illegal African migrants drowned when their boat overturned off Yemen’s southern coast late on Sunday, the country’s defense ministry reported.
The boat smuggling dozens of African migrants “overturned off the coast of Beer Ali,” in the southern Shabwa province, the ministry said in a brief statement on its news website 26sep.net.
A Yemeni naval patrol in the Arabian Sea saved at least 30 others who were taken to a refugee camp in the town of Mayfaa, it said.
A security official confirmed the incident to AFP but no more details were immediately available.
African migrants, especially Ethiopians and Somalis fleeing poverty and unrest at home, generally slip into southern Yemen by boat before heading north towards the Saudi frontier.
Some 84,000 people from Horn of Africa countries flooded into Yemen in 2012 hoping to find jobs in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Some 50,000 – 60,000 African migrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, currently live illegally in Israel. The migrants largely say they are asylum seekers, but the government has traditionally treated them as economic migrants.
Last week, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar confirmed that the government had flown several dozen Eritrean and Sudanese nationals, who had been detained, to third countries in Africa. Israeli government policies toward the African migrants — particularly the lack of adjudication of applications for political asylum — have been severely criticized by the country’s human rights groups.