Some 130 migrants bound for Europe are missing off the Libyan coast after a rubber boat reported it was in distress, independent rescue groups say.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the country would disembark the migrants stranded for two weeks aboard a humanitarian ship in the Mediterranean Sea after six European countries agreed to accept all of them.
Aid agencies say more than 110 migrants were missing and scores feared drowned after their overloaded boat sank off the Libyan coast.
Dozens of migrants are feared dead by the UN after two boats carrying 300 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean.
A Tunisian government source says that some of a group of African migrants who were rescued nine miles off the town of Zarzis had informed coastguards that they had set out from Zuwara in Libya, and that dozens had drowned.
Libya has been in a state of civil war since 2011, with divisions between foreign states ensuring that the the war does not come to an end.
France and Italy plan to offer guard boats to Libya to prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean into the European Union.
The United Nations' Refugee Agency said in a statement it was deeply saddened by reports of an estimated 170 people dead or missing.
The Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms rescued more than 300 migrants off the coast of Libya and is now docked in the port of Crinavis, in San Roque. It was earlier denied by EU states.
Even as the number of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean to Europe has fallen sharply, the likelihood of dying during the dangerous voyage has risen significantly, the UN says.
Before taking the dangerous sea journey to Europe, tens of thousands of migrants face several life-threatening situations on land. And Libya has become the most treacherous transit route.
Hundreds of thousands fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa have tried to reach Europe in recent years.
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