Dozens of African migrants thrown overboard by smugglers and feared dead -IOM

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NAIROBI (Reuters) - Dozens of African migrants are feared to have died on Wednesday after smugglers threw them overboard off Djibouti as they were en route to Yemen, hoping to enter Saudi Arabia to find work.

Their boat, carrying 200 migrants, left Oulebi in Djibouti at 2 a.m., according to Yvonne Ndege, spokeswoman for the U.N. International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

But survivors said that, half an hour later, the smugglers judged the boat was overloaded and threw at least 80 passengers off, Ndege said.

She said five bodies had been retrieved so far.

Drownings in the waters off Djibouti, typically involving migrants from Ethiopia or Somalia trying to escape poverty and war at home by finding work in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, have become common.

They include would-be migrants who have become stranded in Yemen after failing to cross into Saudi Arabia, sometimes due to coronavirus restrictions, and drown on the return crossing.

(This story corrects 5th paragraph to say IOM says drownings are frequent in waters off Djibouti, not Eritrea)

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Kevin Liffey)