The U.N. refugee agency says up to 55 people died when a boat carrying migrants capsized Tuesday off the coast of Somalia.
The agency says the boat overturned just 15 minutes into a trip meant to take the passengers across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen.
Five survivors, all young Somali men who swam to safety, said the boat was overcrowded as it left the port of Bosaso in northern Somalia. The United Nations says 23 bodies have been recovered, while 32 other passengers are presumed to have drowned.
The agency said Thursday the accident is both a tragic loss and a stark reminder of the risks Somali refugees take when they flee their country.
It says about 100,000 people have crossed the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden this year, despite warnings from aid groups about the risks.
The organization says that besides being transported in overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels, the refugees also risk falling prey to smugglers who can subject them to exploitation, extortion, and even death.
An official with the International Organization for Migration said his organization is investigating the wounds that some of the victims appear to have sustained. He said, according to a witness, crew members beating the passengers with sticks to keep them seated.
The U.N. agency says 95 people have drowned or gone missing during the past year in the waters between Somalia and Yemen.