Smugglers threw some 80 migrants off a boat that was crossing from East Africa to the Arabian Peninsula on Wednesday, resulting in at least 20 drowning deaths, according to a UN agency. Yvonne Ndege of the UN's International Organization for Migration said at least five bodies were taken from the water on Wednesday night, per the New York Times. Survivors were being treated at an IOM center in Djibouti. About 200 migrants, including children, had been packed onto the boat that departed Djibouti bound for Yemen earlier Wednesday. About 30 minutes into the journey across the mouth of the Red Sea, the smugglers announced that there were too many people on board the vessel and began throwing dozens of migrants off, Ndege said.
Thousands of migrants, often from Ethiopia and Somalia, make the trip to Yemen each year en route to other Gulf states in the hope of finding employment, the Times reports, noting this is "the third incident of its kind in less than six months." At least 50 migrants died in two similar incidents in the area in October, according to IOM. As many as 50 migrants drowned when they were thrown overboard on the same route in 2017, per ABC News. "Wednesday's tragedy is further proof that criminals continue to exploit people desperate to improve their lives for profit regardless of the consequences," says IOM Djibouti Chief of Mission Stephanie Daviot. The agency notes the coronavirus pandemic has slowed the flow of migrants, with 37,500 crossing in 2020, compared to 138,000 the year before. (Read more migrants stories.)