Survivors, who are being treated, say smugglers threw dozens of passengers overboard soon after leaving Oulebi to lighten the load of a boat carrying some 200 refugees and asylum seekers.

FILE PHOTO: Picture shows rescued migrants sitting on a pier next to a Libyan coast guard ship in the town of Khoms, a town 120 km (75 miles) east of the capital, October 1, 2019.
FILE PHOTO: Picture shows rescued migrants sitting on a pier next to a Libyan coast guard ship in the town of Khoms, a town 120 km (75 miles) east of the capital, October 1, 2019. (AFP)

The International Organisation for Migration has said at least 20 migrants are dead after smugglers threw 80 overboard during a voyage from Djibouti in East Africa to Yemen.

A statement says “smugglers started shouting there were too many on board” after the boat with 200 migrants, including children under 18, set off on Wednesday.

"Survivors believe at least 20 people have been killed. There are still some unaccounted for. Five bodies washed up onshore," said Yvonne Ndege, IOM regional spokesperson for the East and Horn of Africa, told AFP.

This has happened before as thousands of migrants continue to try to make their way from the Horn of Africa to Yemen and then on to rich Gulf countries.

READ MORE: For migrants, stopover in Yemen often means rape and torture – report

Worrying trend

The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting closed borders have slowed but not stopped the flow of migrants. The IOM said about 138,000 people made the journey in 2019 but just 37,500 in 2020.

It is not immediately clear what countries the migrants in this latest journey were from, but many make the voyage from Ethiopia and Somalia.

In October, at least eight migrants drowned after smugglers forced them off a boat near Djibouti.

In 2017, up to 50 migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia were “deliberately drowned” when a smuggler forced them into the sea off Yemen’s coast. And in 2018, at least 30 migrants and refugees died when a boat capsized off Yemen, with survivors reporting gunfire.

READ MORE: Dozens of migrants die in 2020's deadliest shipwreck in Mediterranean

Source: TRTWorld and agencies