At least 35 people were killed or presumed dead, the United Nations Migration Agency said on Saturday when a migrant boat capsized off the coast of Libya.
The International Organization for Migration said the ship took off on Friday off the western Libyan city of Sabratha, a major launching point for predominantly African migrants making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea.
The IOM said the bodies of six migrants were retrieved, while 29 others were missing and presumed dead. It was not immediately clear what caused the wooden boat to capsize.
The tragedy was the latest to involve migrants departing North Africa in search of a better life in Europe. Last week alone, at least 53 migrants were reported killed or killed in Libya, according to the IOM.
“There is an urgent need for dedicated search and rescue capability and a safe landing mechanism to prevent further deaths and suffering,” the IOM said.
Investigators appointed by the UN’s top human rights body found evidence of possible crimes against humanity at the hands of migrants and human traffickers languishing in government-run prisons in Libya.
Earlier this month, days after leaving Libya, more than 90 people drowned in an overcrowded boat in the Mediterranean, according to the Doctors Without Borders support group.
Migrants regularly try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to reach European shores. The country has emerged as a major transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
Human traffickers have benefited from the chaos in Libya in recent years, with six countries smuggling migrants across the oil-rich country’s long borders. The migrants are then usually packed in non-equipped rubber boats and set off on risky sea voyages.
According to the IOM, at least 476 migrants died on the central Mediterranean route between January 1 and April 11.
Once back in Libya, migrants are usually taken to government-run detention centers with abuse and mistreatment.