200 people dead or missing in Mediterranean Sea in 10 days

Nigerians among 200 migrants who ‘drowned’ in Mediterranean

Nigerians among 200 migrants who ‘drowned’ in Mediterranean

The Libyan navy said on Wednesday that some 100 migrants are missing at sea and feared dead while the coast guard rescued at least 279 others off the coast of Libya. Those missing were all from a single rubber boat that capsized while at sea.

IOM reported on Tuesday that 81 Mediterranean Sea deaths of migrants or refugees were recorded in the first eight days of the year - five in Western Mediterranean waters off Spain and Morocco, the rest between Italy and Libya.

Rescue and search efforts went on for more than 12 hours despite the rough sea and limited resources, the navy said.

The Libyan coastguard rescued 17 people from the boat that sank off the town of al-Khoms east of the Libyan capital Tripoli, the navy said on its Facebook page.

The UN migration agency said its officials were present at the disembarkation point in Tripoli and provided the survivors with food and water. It has since become a frequently used route to Europe for those fleeing poverty and conflict.

Libyan coastguard vessels picked up almost 300 migrants from three boats off the coast of the North African country on Tuesday, but one rubber boat was punctured and the coastguard only found 16 survivors clinging to its wreckage.

Under heavy pressure from Italy, some Libyan armed factions have blocked smuggling since last summer.

The massive flood of migrants across the Mediterranean over the past few years prompted the European Union to take measures, including training and equipping Libya's coast guard to stop boats attempting the unsafe sea crossing.

The high death rate among the migrants is often blamed on small dinghies and poor vessels used by the smugglers, who also appear still willing to courageous the choppy winter sea.

There has been a surge in attempted crossings in recent days, with dozens more migrants feared to have drowned over the weekend.