Survivors of an inflatable boat that sank off the Libyan coast fear that up to 40 African migrants traveling with them might have drowned, the survivors said to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on Thursday after they managed to reach Italy.
"They said between 35 and 40 people died on Wednesday morning," said the UNHCR spokeswoman for southern Europe, Carlotta Sami.
All the deceased are from sub-Saharan countries such as Senegal, Mali and Benin.
A charity group, Save the Children interviewed some of the survivors and said up to seven children may have drowned, aged between 15 and 16 during the incident.
Sami said the poorly conditioned makeshift boat started disintegrating shortly after it made contact with the sea from Tripoli.
"Unfortunately the rubber was of a very bad quality," she added.
The sunk ship and its passengers were rescued by a German navy vessel.
Save the Children said the German vessel rescued 283 refugees and brought them to the coast of Italy, to port Augusta. Two separate boats brought in a further 669 immigrants to the Sicily area.
UN refugee agency said 46,500 refugees have arrived in Italy by sea this year, as the Italian government estimates the number to reach 200,000 at year’s end, 30,000 more than 2014.
In April, about 800 people died when a migrant boat capsized in the Mediterranean in the worst maritime disaster since World War II, triggering an increase in rescue efforts by Europeans.
At least 1,900 migrants are thought to be killed trying to cross the sea from Libya to Europe so far this year.
Migrants, escaping from wars and persecutions in the Middle East and Africa, seek asylum in Europe.
The European Commission has recently proposed an action plan on asylum and immigration that ensures the burden of 20,000 migrants’ intake among the EU member states.
The proposed document settles migrant quotas in accordance with the EU countries’ GDP level, population and number of migrants already living in those countries.
So far almost 10 countries in the EU bloc including the UK, Hungary, Spain as well as France raised their objections to the action plan presented by the Commission.
The EU also approved last month a mission to tackle with the issue through destroying the migrant boats used for human trafficking in the Mediterranean.
But the UN put its reserves on EU’s decision to submerge vessels because of some humanitarian and military reasons which oblige to get a permission from the UN Security Council.