As many as 50 Somali and Ethiopian migrants and refugees drowned off Yemen’s coast after a smuggler threw more than 120 of them overboard from their boat into torrential waters, the United Nations said Wednesday.
The tragedy occurred early Wednesday morning local time and was discovered by staff from the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration later that day when they were patrolling a beach in Shabwa, a Yemeni governorate along the Arabian Sea.
The staff aided 27 migrants on shore and found 29 shallow graves dug by survivors. With many still unaccounted for, the IOM believes up to 50 may have died.
“The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them to the sea, when he saw some ‘authority types’ near the coast,” Laurent de Boeck, the IOM Yemen chief of mission, said in a statement from the U.N.
Many of those thrown overboard were children, with the average age of passengers being 16.
“This is shocking and inhumane,” de Boeck continued. “The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future.”
Survivors told de Boeck and other U.N. staffers that the smuggler returned to Somalia to pick up more migrants,
Those on board were escaping strife in Ethiopia and Somalia with the hope of reaching countries in the Gulf region through Yemen, a nation suffering through its own brutal conflict. Since the beginning of the year, IOM estimates, more than 55,000 migrants ― around 30,000 under the age of 18 ― have left the Horn of Africa for Yemen in the same pursuit.
The perilous journey is known to be deadly. In March, 42 Somali migrants were killed off the coast of Yemen when a helicopter attacked the boat they were traveling in.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.