At least 18 migrants dead after boat capsizes in Mediterranean

Libyan coastguard says all victims are believed to be from Egypt

Eighteen migrants drowned and dozens others were rescued after their boat sank off the coast of Libya.

The deaths are the latest tragedy on the dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossing to Europe which has claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 people this year alone.

Rescue vessels found 51 survivors from Sunday night's shipwreck, a coastguard official in the port of Zuwara, 120 kilometres west of the capital Tripoli, said.

The official said the 18 who died were all Egyptians, citing testimonies from survivors.

The International Organisation for Migration had earlier reported 16 migrants missing, including a woman and a child.

It was not immediately clear what caused the boat to sink, but vessels leaving the North African coast for Europe are often heavily overloaded makeshift crafts, departing at night even in rough weather to avoid detection by the coastguard.

About 970 migrants have died trying to reach Europe from Libya since the start of the year.

Last month, the IOM said the number of people who had died trying to cross the Mediterranean nearly doubled in the first half of 2021 compared with the same period last year.

Despite persistent violence since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has become one of the main departure points for migrants from Africa trying to reach Europe.

Most head for the Italian coast about 300 kilometres away.

The EU for several years supported Libyan forces to try to stem migration, despite often grim conditions at detention centres in Libya.

It comes as more than 828 migrants arrived in the UK from France using makeshift boats on Tuesday, the highest ever number to attempt the English Channel crossing in a single day.

International agencies have repeatedly denounced the return to Libya of migrants intercepted at sea.

The Libyan coastguard picked up more than 13,000 people in the first half of this year, exceeding the total figure for 2020, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

That figure has now risen to 20,257, according to the IOM.

Updated: August 24th 2021, 4:25 PM