Over 100 bodies found in waters off Libyan coast

More than 100 bodies have been recovered after a boat capsized off Libya's shores, a spokesman for the country's navy said.

At least 104 bodies have been pulled out of the waters near the western city of Zwara but the expected death toll is likely to be higher since such boats usually carry up to 125 people.

Colonel Ayoub Gassim said the Libyan coast guards found the empty boat yesterday and that it is possible the boat capsized on Wednesday.

He blamed Europe for "doing nothing but counting bodies" to stop the illegal migration from Libya.

The discovery of the bodies off Zwara is the latest in a string of tragedies that have already claimed more than 1,000 lives in recent weeks as desperate migrants embark on treacherous sea journeys seeking a better life in Europe.

Four bodies were recovered and 340 people rescued on Friday from a sinking migrant boat carrying a "significant number" of people in the Mediterranean Sea south of the Greek island of Crete.

The coast guard said the roughly 25-metre vessel, which resembled a large fishing boat, had been carrying an undetermined number of people when it was located half-sunk about 75 nautical miles south of Crete in international waters, and within Egypt's search and rescue area of operation.

Greece was sending two patrol vessels, a military airplane and three helicopters, while five passing ships were participating in the rescue operation and one more was on its way. The coast guard said the operation was continuing to locate any potentially missing passengers from the migrant boat.

"The information we have on the number of people on board the vessel is still unclear - we've heard that there were 400 or 500 people on board, but we cannot confirm that number," Coast Guard spokesman Nikos Lagadianos said.

"There is a huge rescue effort under way."

Authorities in southern Crete said temporary shelter space - possibly sports facilities - was being sought on the island to house people if they are taken there.

Migrant smugglers have opted for more dangerous routes after a March agreement The short crossing from the Turkish coast to Greek islands was the preferred route for migrants heading to Europe until Balkan countries closed their borders and the European Union reached an agreement with Turkey to stem the flow of people.

Under that deal, those arriving on Greek islands from March 20 onwards face deportation back to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece, a financially troubled country few migrants or refugees want to stay in.

The deal has led to a dramatic decrease in the number of people arriving on Greek islands from Turkey.

The coast guard said it and European border patrol agency Frontex had rescued 164 people in four separate incidents yesterday off the islands of Lesbos and Chios. Before the EU-Turkey deal, thousands would arrive each day.

However, the agreement has led refugees and migrants to seek alternative routes, with many attempting the much longer and more dangerous crossing from north Africa towards Italy.

Hundreds have died in the past few weeks when overcrowded boats attempting the crossing sank.

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