Migration Crisis Scores missing in migrant crossing in Mediterranean: Italy

Search operations were continuing after nightfall in poor weather and sea conditions, it said.

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Migrants and refugees sit on a rubber boat during a rescue operation of the Topaz Responder, a rescue ship run by Maltese NGO "Moas" and the Italian Red Cross with the help of the Libyan coastguards, on November 4, 2016 off th Libyan coast play

Migrants and refugees sit on a rubber boat during a rescue operation of the Topaz Responder, a rescue ship run by Maltese NGO "Moas" and the Italian Red Cross with the help of the Libyan coastguards, on November 4, 2016 off th Libyan coast

(AFP/File)
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The Italian coastguard said on Saturday nearly a hundred people were missing after a boat with migrants sank off the Libyan coast.

"The bodies of eight people have been recovered. Four people have been saved, and they say 107 migrants were onboard the boat in all," the agency's press office said.

Migrants and refugees sit on a rubber boat during a rescue operation of the Topaz Responder, a rescue ship run by Maltese NGO "Moas" and the Italian Red Cross with the help of the Libyan coastguards, on November 4, 2016 off th Libyan coast play

Migrants and refugees sit on a rubber boat during a rescue operation of the Topaz Responder, a rescue ship run by Maltese NGO "Moas" and the Italian Red Cross with the help of the Libyan coastguards, on November 4, 2016 off th Libyan coast

(AFP/File)

Search operations were continuing after nightfall in poor weather and sea conditions, it said.

A French warship, patrolling under the EU's Frontex border operation, picked up the survivors and two merchant ships were heading for the area, located about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of the Libyan coast.

A Frontex plane and an Italian naval helicopter also joined the operation.

On Friday, around 550 migrants were picked up from four inflatable dinghies by Italian coastguard vessels, an an Italian naval ship, an NGO boat and a merchant vessel.

In recent years Italy has been on the front line of migrants arriving across the Mediterranean and has been pushing for agreements with governments in North Africa to facilitate returns.

People-smugglers have exploited the chaos in Libya since the 2011 uprising that overthrew dictator Moamer Kadhafi to traffic migrants in boats to Italy 300 km (185 miles) away.

According to the Italian interior ministry, over 180,000 migrants landed in Italy last year, an annual record.

The UN has said more than 5,000 people died in 2016 trying to cross the Mediterranean, most of them on the Libya-Italy route.

In another incident, the bodies of six migrants were found washed up on beaches near Algeciras, the port on the southern tip of Spain near Gibraltar, the Spanish sea rescue service said on Saturday.

The six were all men, apparently from sub-Saharan Africa.

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