Bodies of African migrants found washed up 30 miles east of Tripoli after boat carrying hundreds trying to cross to Europe sinks less than a mile from Libyan coast

Bodies of African immigrants have been found washed up on shores 30 miles east of Tripoli.

It comes after nearly 200 migrants were feared to have drowned after a boat sank less than a mile from the coast of Libya during an attempted crossing to mainland Europe.

The small vessel – which was crammed with men, women and children – sank late on Friday, according to the local coast guard.

Bodies of African would-be migrants are washed up on the shore of al-Qarboli, 30 miles east of Tripoli, Libya

Abdel-Latif Ibrahim said earlier that 16 people were rescued. He said five of the victims were children.

It comes as Italy’s maritime search and rescue team are being called upon to retrieve hundreds of migrants who are trying to flee North Africa via the Mediterranean Sea on a daily basis.

A Libyan coastguard spokesman Abdellatif Mohammed Ibrahim said: ’A few miles off the coast, we found the remains of a wooden boat which had some 200 migrants on board.

’We managed to save 16 people and recovered 15 bodies, but the search continues for some 170 people who disappeared at sea.’

He added: ’It seems that among them are Somalis and Eritreans in addition to other nationalities. One of the fatalities was an 18-month-old child.’

Members of the Libyan coast guard retrieve a body from the water – one of 200 feared to have gone down with a small vessel that tried to cross to mainland Europe

Around 3,500 migrants and 19 corpses have been discovered since Friday during a spate of attempted journeys by traffickers trying to take advantage of calmer summer seas.

The Italian ship Sirio recovered 18 corpses and 73 survivors from a raft, after a frigate picked up one corpse along with 1372 survivors on Friday night.

The Mare Nostrum search and rescue mission began after a shipwreck near Italy’s coast killed 366 people last October.

The mission costs around 9 million euros (£7.5 million) a month and has sparked fierce debate in Italy, which slipped back into recession in the second quarter after years of stagnation.

A breakdown of order in Libya since the toppling of Colonel Gaddafi has been exploited by human traffickers, pushing the number of arrivals into Italy since January past 100,000.

At the frontier between Europe and Africa, Italy has long attracted seaborne migrants, but the number of arrivals this year is already above a previous record of just over 60,000 for all of 2011, when the Arab Spring uprisings fuelled migration.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has called on the European Union to take responsibility for rescuing migrants by investing in border control agency Frontex, and on the United Nations to intervene in Libya to manage the flows of refugees.

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