Up to 150 People Feared Dead in Shipwreck Off Libya, UN Refugee Agency Says

If confirmed, number of dead would be the highest for a shipwreck in the Mediterranean this year

Migrants jump into the water from a wooden boat as they are helped by members of an NGO during a rescue operation at the Mediterranean Sea, off Libya, August 29, 2016.
Emilio Morenatti/AP

Up to 150 people are feared to have died in a shipwreck off the coast of Libya, while another 150 were rescued and are being returned to Libya, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Thursday.

Libya is a hub for migrants, many of whom try to reach Europe in unseaworthy boats.

>> Read more: Lying on the floor, dying of tuberculosis: Inside the horrors of Libya's brutal migrant prisons

UNHCR and other UN agencies have repeatedly called for survivors not to be returned to Libya, a conflict zone where rescued migrants and refugees are routinely jailed in inhumane conditions.

The ship left Libya from Al Khoms, a town 120 km east of Tripoli. There were around 300 people travelling, according to the first available accounts from survivors, but it was unclear if one or two vessels were involved.

The survivors were picked up by local fishermen and then returned to the coast by Libyan coastguard, UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley said.

If confirmed, the number of dead would be the highest for a shipwreck in the Mediterranean this year.