Nearly 100 people have died in international waters after setting off from Libya in an overcrowded boat, international organisations said.
A commercial tanker, Alegria 1, rescued four people from a life raft in the Mediterranean early on Saturday morning, the Doctors Without Borders charity said on Sunday.
“We know from our initial contact with Alegria 1 that the survivors reported being at sea for at least four days on a boat with nearly 100 people on board,” the charity, which goes by its French acronym MSF, said in a tweet.
According to a transcript of the logbook of exchanges with the tanker, seen by the AFP news agency, the tanker said “around 96 people died in the water.”
The UN refugee chief reacted to the news on Sunday, tweeting: “more than 90 people have died in another Mediterranean tragedy.”
“Europe has proven its ability to host 4 million refugees from Ukraine generously and effectively,” he said.
“It must now urgently consider how to apply this to other refugees and migrants knocking, in distress, at its doors.”
MSF meanwhile stressed that those rescued on Saturday “are in need of urgent protection and care.”
“None of the survivors should be returned to a place where they face detention, abuse and ill-treatment. Libya is not a place of safety,” it said.
Libya, wracked by a decade of conflict and lawlessness, has become a key departure point for African and Asian migrants making desperate attempts to reach Europe.
Migrants often endure horrific conditions in Libya before embarking northwards on overcrowded, often unseaworthy vessels that frequently sink or get into trouble.
The European Union has faced criticism for its close cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard to cut numbers of migrants arriving on European shores.
On their return, many face further horrific abuses in detention centres.
Prior to the latest tragedy, the UN’s International Organisation for Migration had recorded 367 deaths in the Mediterranean so far this year, after registering 2,048 such deaths in 2021.