Over 160 migrants and refugees have drowned over the past week, bringing the death toll in the central Mediterranean route to around 1,500 this year.

Around 31,500 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya in 2021 compared with nearly 11,900 migrants the previous year, according to the IOM.
Around 31,500 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya in 2021 compared with nearly 11,900 migrants the previous year, according to the IOM. (Reuters)

More than 160 migrants and refugees have drowned in two separate shipwrecks off Libya over past week, a United Nations migration official has said. 

Safa Msehli, a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration, on Tuesday said at least 102 migrants were reported dead after their wooden boat capsized off Libya on Friday. 

At least eight others were rescued and returned to shore, she said.

The second shipwreck took place Saturday. The Libyan coast guard retrieved at least 62 bodies of migrants, Msehli said. 

The same day, the coast guard intercepted a third wooden boat with at least 210 migrants on board, she said.

The fatalities were the latest disasters in the Mediterranean Sea involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

The new deaths have brought the tally in the central Mediterranean route to around 1,500 migrants drowned this year, Msehli said.

READ MORE: UN slams Libya over migrant detentions and 'crimes against humanity'

Surge in crossings

Recent months have seen a surge in crossings and attempted crossings from Libya as authorities accelerated their deadly crackdown on migrants in the capital of Tripoli.

Around 31,500 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya in 2021, compared to nearly 11,900 migrants the previous year, according to the IOM. 

Around 980 migrants were dead or presumed dead in 2020, the UN agency said.

READ MORE: Dozens of migrants dead in one day after second shipwreck off Libyan coast

Source: TRTWorld and agencies