Libyan authorities say a wooden boat headed for Italy carrying as many as 200 migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa sunk just a half-mile off the Libyan coast, with most feared dead.
"We found 16 individuals alive, the rest are lost. We are investigating the rest. There were 20 bodies, found dead in the water," Abdel Latif Mohamed Ibrahim, a member of the Libyan coast guard, told Al Jazeera Saturday.
Earlier this month, Italy's head of immigration said nearly 100,000 migrants have come to the country's shores thus far in 2014, following the arrival of a couple dozen Syrian migrants on the coast of Sardinia.
"These are people, not in Italy for tourism but from despair," said Mario Morcone, head of the department of civil liberties and immigration for the interior ministry. "Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, many of them continue to lose their lives in the crossings."
Italian officials say that as many as 65,000 migrants have been rescued in Italian waters this year through the county's Operation Mare Nostrum program — a program designed to save fleeing migrants transported on unstable boats.