The lifeless bodies of three babies were recovered and around 100 people reported missing after a migrant boat sank off the coast of Libya on Friday, survivors and the coastguard said.
120 migrants were aboard the inflatable dinghy at the time, as survivors were brought ashore in Al-Hmidiya east of the capital Tripoli told AFP. Sixteen people were rescued.
Libya is the main jumping off point for most migrants trying to reach Europe. Survivors told AFP the boat sank a few hours after its pre-dawn departure from Garaboulli, east of Tripoli, following an explosion on board. The tragedy at sea underscores the urgency of European countries agreeing on a deal to help stem the influx of migrants to the continent.
European Union leaders declared victory on Friday regarding a migrant plan, claiming to have set aside their major differences over how best to handle migrant arrivals as they commissioned new plans to screen people in North Africa for eligibility to enter Europe.
But even as they met for a second day in Brussels, the coast guard in Libya announced that 100 people were missing and feared dead in the Mediterranean Sea after their smugglers’ boat capsized.
Few months ago, it was also reported that a boat carrying migrants toward Europe sank off the coast of Tunisia and at least 46 people drowned, though dozens more could be missing.
The ministry said 68 people were rescued overnight after the boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea near Kerkennah island, off Tunisia’s eastern coast. Authorities said the vessel was believed to have been carrying about 180 passengers.
Rachid Bouhoula, the defense ministry press officer, said a rescue and recovery operation continued in the waters around the island.
TheNorth African nation’s defense ministry, said earlier that those rescued included 61 Tunisians and seven people from other countries. At the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, more than 857,000 people reached Greece from Turkey. A 2016 deal between Turkey and the European Union has dramatically reduced the numbers of migrants coming into Greece.
See photos of the babies