90 migrants, mostly Pakistanis, feared drowned off Libyan coast

At least 90 migrants to Europe, mostly Pakistanis, are feared to have drowned off the western Libyan town of Zuwara early on Friday, a UN migration agency said.

Ten bodies have washed up on Libyan shores including those of two Libyans and eight Pakistanis. Two Libyans and a Pakistani migrant swam ashore or were rescued by a fishing boat.

There was no storm around Zuwarah at the time of the tragedy but the boat was overcrowded, said Olivia Headon, spokeswoman of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The three survivors told aid workers that most of the migrants on board were Pakistanis. But Headon said IOM needs to verify the nationalities and count of the victims. A search-and-rescue operation is under way for the missing migrants.

Forty migrants drowned when a dinghy carrying around 130 people capsized in the Mediterranean last Saturday night.

Every life lost at sea is one life too many, EU foreign policy spokeswoman Catherine Ray said in Brussels on Friday. The European Union would continue its rescue operations in the Mediterranean as well as its fight against traffickers who put migrants in danger, she said.

Headon said IOM is studying the steep rise in the number of Pakistani migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. From 13th position last year, Pakistan has moved to the third position now.

Zuwara, located near Tunisia, was a favoured departure point for migrant boats over the past two years. Of late, it has seen only occasional departures like the one on Thursday that led to the latest boat tragedy.