Smuggler 'pushed' migrants off boat, killing dozens

WATCH: African refugees 'forced off' boats near Yemen coast

Traffickers push up to 180 migrants into sea off Yemen: UN

"Throughout the journey, migrants had been brutally treated by the smugglers", it said in a statement that described migrants being forced to squat during the 24-36 hour journey to save space, with no access to a bathroom.

Six migrants drowned and 13 were missing Thursday when smugglers forced 180 Ethiopian migrants off a boat bound for Yemen, a day after a similar incident left 50 dead, the International Organization for Migration said. "Smugglers are active in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, offering fake promises to vulnerable migrants". The passengers' average age was around 16, the agency said. Yemen is now going through a conflict and humanitarian crisis but the migrants go there to try to reach Europe or the Gulf states.

The war in Yemen has left over 8,300 people dead and displaced millions since 2015, but the impoverished country continues to draw migrants from the Horn of Africa seeking work in prosperous Gulf countries further north.

"It may be the start of a new trend, smugglers know the situation is unsafe for them and they could be shot at, so they drop them near the shore and turn around and get more", she said.

The migrants reported that 100 other survivors had already left the beach.

Yemen is one of a few routes that the migrants use to reach other countries.

Its staffers found the shallow graves of 29 migrants on a beach in Shabwa during a routine patrol. Windy season in the Indian Ocean makes the trip especially risky.

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The IOM said it feared the incidents might mark the start of a new trend in people-smuggling that could lead to more deaths. "And they have no choice", Mr de Boeck told the AP.

"The difficulty is also that this is a criminal network which is organised not only in Yemen but also in Somalia, in Djibouti as well as Ethiopia", he added.

"They have forgotten us a little bit", Mr de Boeck said.

Despite the fighting in Yemen, African migrants continue to arrive in the country where there is no central authority to prevent them from traveling onward.

The conflict itself is a deadly risk. A boat carrying Somali migrants was attacked in March, killing 42.

More than 111,500 migrants landed on Yemen's shores last year, up from around 100,000 the year before, according to the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, a grouping of global agencies that monitors migration in the area.

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