About 115 people are missing and feared to have drowned and another 134 were rescued by Libyan coast guards and local fishermen after a wooden boat carrying migrants capsized off Libya.
Earlier, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said that up to 150 people were feared dead.
UNHCR head Filippo Grandi in a tweet said“The worst Mediterranean tragedy of this year has just occurred.
Libyan navy spokesman Ayoub Qassem said there were about 250 people on board, mainly from Eritrea and other sub-Saharan Africa and Arab countries, when the boat capsized off the coast near Komas, east of the capital Tripoli.
Libya is a hub for migrants and refugees, many of whom try to reach Europe in unseaworthy boats.
UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley said the latest shipwreck takes the death toll of Mediterranean migrants to over 600 this year, putting 2019 on track to be the sixth year in a row with more than 1,000 deaths.
Yaxley said survivors of the wreck were likely to be brought to two detention centers in Libya where they would face further risks, and he called for their immediate release.
Libya says the migrants are illegally entering and leaving the country. It regularly detains them in centers that the U.N. says are effectively jails, exposing them to the added risk of being caught up in the country’s civil war.
Human rights activists have accused politicians in the European Union of turning a blind eye and letting people die rather than risk a voter backlash by appearing soft on immigration.
Italy, many African migrants’ intended first destination, has taken a tough line since a populist government took office in 2018, and immediately sought to close the nation’s ports to rescued migrants.