Gulf of Aden
The Gulf of Aden is one of the deadliest routes for people fleeing conflict. (Wiki Commons)

Fifty-five people believed to be refugees from violence-torn Somalia have died after an overcrowded boat capsized off the coast.

The vessel was carrying 55 Somalis and Ethiopians and was on its way to Yemen when it sank in the Gulf of Aden.

It got into trouble shortly after leaving the port of Bosasso, said reports.

The UN said it was the biggest loss of life in the Gulf of Aden since February 2011, when 57 people drowned.

A spokesman for the UNHCR said: "Twenty-three bodies have been recovered. The 32 remaining passengers are presumed to have drowned."

Five people survived.

The UNHCR said people making the journey to Yemen often used overcrowded or unseaworthy vessels. The agency said 95 people have drowned or gone missing in the gulf between Somalia and Yemen in 2012.

UNHCR high commissioner António Guterres said: "The Gulf of Aden remains one of the deadliest routes for those fleeing the fatal mix of conflict, violence and human rights abuses in the Horn of Africa."