At least 150 people have drowned after their boat sank off the Libyan coast Thursday, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) confirmed.
The UNHCR earlier tweeted of the deadly shipwreck off the coast of Al-Khums, a port city 80 miles east of Tripoli.
The Libyan branch of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also tweeted on the incident, posting that 145 were rescued.
“The worst Mediterranean tragedy of this year has just occurred,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for the UNHCR.
Each year, thousands pour across Libya’s borders — the final stop before a short but treacherous sea voyage across the Mediterranean to Europe.
With dreams of finding better opportunities, migrants are often exploited for vast sums by traffickers and packed onto almost unseaworthy vessels for the dangerous crossing.
Prior to Thursday’s shipwreck, at least 686 migrants have died in the Mediterranean so far this year, the IOM says.