On Thursday night of last week, as a group of Somali migrants were aboard a boat off Yemen’s west coast headed towards Sudan, 42 people were brutally gunned down by an Apache helicopter, reports indicated. According to The Guardian, a coastguard said that all people on the small ship were carrying official UNHCR refugee documents.
While the death toll may have been greater than 42, that is the number of bodies which were collected after the massacre occuring near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait off the coast of Yemen. This strait, located at the base of the Red Sea, is home to oil which is routed to the United States, Europe, and Asia, making this region an epicenter of international conflict.
Survivors of the Hudaydah boat attack gave the UN and other data collectors conflicting messages about whether the attack came from a helicopter which had taken off from a military ship or was a missile blown directly at them by a ship. The migrant boat was about 30 miles off the coast when it was gunned down.
The helicopter which is believed to have gunned down and killed at least 42 migrants may have been Saudi-owned, which means the air vehicle was likely to have been U.S.-manufactured. A spokesperson for the Saudi coalition denied reports of firing in that area, however.
As the BBC reported, the conflict in Yemen throughout the last two years has displaced more than 3.3 million people as of March 2015. Seventeen million people living in the war-torn country don’t have proper access to food, and the scenario is even worse for pregnant and breastfeeding women and their infants.
In the U.S. and abroad, there is much confusion as to why migrant civilians are being attacked in cases such as this instance in Yemen.
Two years ago, Yemen imported 90 percent of its food staples, but a Saudi-led naval embargo has blocked the arrival of such goods to the government-controlled port of Aden. Moreover, access to clean, treated water is limited and this month more than 22,180 cases of cholera have been reported.
At least three warring factions are fighting for control of Yemen, including al-Qaeda which has a stronghold in the east near the border shared with Oman.
The UNHCR issued a statement which condemns the murder of the migrants and called for a formal inquiry into who is responsible for this massacre of innocent lives. “Everything must be done to protect civilians,” the press release stated.
In the U.S. and abroad, there is much confusion as to why migrant civilians are being attacked in cases such as this instance in Yemen. While there may be much reporting from the Middle East, there is indeed so much reporting, that fact becomes intertwined with fiction depending on one’s news sources. Reading the news in English from translated sources only contributes to more confusion and information being lost.
And, for the part of the U.S., this very confusion among average North Americans extends to wondering why such innocent migrants would be denied entry within U.S. borders under President Donald Trump’s current legislation which puts struggling civilians at an even greater risk on an international scope. The U.S. has an obligation to cut through the red tape for at-risk civilians whose lives are in danger and whose health is deteriorating due to circumstances beyond their control.