TRIPOLI (AFP) – Dozens of African migrants were missing and feared dead after their boat sank off the coast of Libya, a Libyan navy spokesman told AFP on Monday.
Only 36 of the migrants, including three women, were rescued after the boat carrying some 200 migrants sank in waters east of Tripoli on Sunday, Colonel Ayub Kassem said.
“There were a lot of floating bodies but a lack of resources meant we could not fish out the corpses, especially as it was starting to get dark,” Kassem said.
“Our priority was to rescue the survivors.”
Mired in unrest and political chaos, Libya has been a launchpad for illegal migrants trying to reach Europe and who turn to people smugglers to cross the Mediterranean, mainly to Italy.
In recent months, dozens have gone missing and are presumed dead after their often-rickety boats sank off the Libyan coast. In the last major accident, 170 migrants went missing off the coast of Libya at the end of the August.
This year has seen a surge in the numbers of migrants attempting to make the hazardous crossing from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe.
More than 100,000 have reached Italy since the start of the year and nearly 2,000 have perished in the attempt, according to UN refugee body UNHCR.