At least eight migrants died and 12 are missing at sea after being forced off a boat by smugglers off the coast of Djibouti, the UN migration agency said on Sunday.
All 34 migrants on board are believed to be Ethiopians attempting to return to the Horn of Africa after failing to cross into Yemen.
Fourteen survivors are receiving medical treatment in Djibouti, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.
Thousands of Saudi-bound Ethiopian workers cross Yemen each month, but restrictions aimed at curbing the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the war-ravaged country have made the journey even more perilous, forcing many to turn back.
“This tragedy is a wake up call. Hundreds of migrants are leaving Yemen everyday, trying to reach Djibouti, risking their lives, facing exploitation from people smugglers, and in this instance, very tragically, death and injury,” an IOM spokeswoman said.
To date 14 000 migrants, mostly Ethiopians, are stranded in Yemen trying to make their way back to their home country. In the last three weeks alone, 2000 arrived in Djibouti, the IOM said.