According to witnesses, the overloaded boats carrying migrants faced large waves, and eventually buckled.
At least five migrants have died and more than 130 missing after two boats capsized off the coast of Djibouti, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.
According to a statement released by the IOM on Tuesday, the boats sank off the coast of Godoria, a mangrove area in Djibouti’s northeast.
“After being alerted by local residents, a team of gendarmerie gathered this afternoon near the reported site of the disaster and discovered two survivors as well as the remains of three women and two men,” an IOM statement said.
“The coastguard was also alerted and launched search and rescue operations. Those operations are still underway with two patrol boats.”
At least one person has been saved. It was unclear where the boats were headed.
According to witnesses, the boats buckled under excessive load when faced with large waves.
The sinking comes amid an ongoing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, where boats filled with refugees try to reach mainland Europe after departure from points in North Africa.
On Monday, the Dutch government said it refused to accept a group of 47 refugees currently on a rescue ship that is being blocked from docking on Italian ports.
Following that statement, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said he would allow the 47 migrants into his country on condition they would immediately be transferred to the Netherlands.
The Sea-Watch 3, run by a German humanitarian group and flying a Dutch flag, rescued the migrants from a rubber boat off the Libyan coast more than a week ago.
Since then it has been sailing through high winds and seven-metre high waves.
Earlier this month, 49 refugees, including a baby and several children, were in a similar situation when Italy refused to let two rescue ships into its harbours.
Those refugees were eventually accepted by a slew of European countries.
In December, rescue and relief organisations SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced they were ending the Aquarius refugee rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea after “a relentless ongoing political, judicial and administrative campaign backed by several European states”.
MSF said its activities on Aquarius, carried out jointly with SOS Mediterranee, assisted nearly 30,000 people in international waters between Libya, Italy and Malta since the operations started in February 2016.