At least 74 migrants trying to make their way to Europe drowned after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya on Thursday, the UN migration agency said.
It was carrying over 120 migrants, including women and children, when it broke down off the coast of the Libyan port of al-Khums, said the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
Just 47 people were rescued by the Libyan coast guard and fishermen and so far 31 bodies were retrieved as the search for the remaining victims continued, added the IOM.
It’s the latest in a series of at least least eight shipwrecks in the Central Mediterranean since last month.
“The mounting loss of life in the Mediterranean is a manifestation of the inability of States to take decisive action to redeploy much needed, dedicated Search and Rescue capacity in the deadliest sea-crossing in the world,” said Federico Soda, IOM Libya Chief of Mission.
The non-profit organisation Open Arms which has rescued hundreds of migrants recently called the news “unbearable”.
The IOM said that it had noticed a recent surge in the number of departures from the Libyan shores, with over 780 arrivals in Italy since the beginning of October.
More than 11,000 migrants had been intercepted and returned to Libya, where they face the risk of human rights violations and detention, read the IOM statement.
“IOM maintains that Libya is not a safe port for return and reiterates its call on the international community and the European Union to take urgent and concrete action to end the cycle of return and exploitation,” added the statement.
War-torn Libya has been a large transit point for migrants coming from Africa and the Middle East since the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
At least 20,000 people have died in those waters since 2014, according to the IOM.