UN chief Antonio Guterres said he was “heartbroken” on Thursday after smugglers pushed migrants off boats heading for Yemen twice in two days.
At least six migrants died when smugglers pushed a total of 180 from a boat off the southern coast of Yemen on Thursday, the second such drowning in the same area in two days.
Secretary General Guterres is “heartbroken by this continuing tragedy,” according to a statement read by spokesman Stephane Dujarric in New York.
Guterres reiterated his message to the international community to prevent and resolve situations which generate mass movement and expose those already on the move to significant danger.
He also encouraged the creation of legal pathways for migration.
Twelve people are still missing after the drownings on Thursday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.
They were forced off the boat as it drifted near Shabwa province in the Gulf of Aden.
The incident comes some 24 hours after smugglers pushed 120 migrants off a boat near the coast of Shabwa, resulting in the drowning of about 50 migrants.
In both cases, most migrants were from Ethiopia and Somalia, the IOM said.
On Wednesday, the UN body said a smuggler “deliberately drowned” dozens of migrants after which IOM staff found the shallow graves of 29 people on a beach in Shabwa during a routine patrol.
They also provided medical care to 27 surviving migrants who had stayed on the beach.
The migrants on this route were heading to countries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen. Most of them seek work in the oil-rich states.
Around 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa for Yemen since January 2017, more than 30,000 of whom were under the age of 18, according to estimates from the IOM.
The journey through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden is particularly dangerous during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean.
Yemen hosts more than 255,000 Somali refugees, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, though many foreigners attempt to escape the conflict and the worsening situation in Yemen.