Dozens of migrants drown off Tunisia coast

The boat reportedly sank off the coast of Tunisia near the city of Sfax

A fishing boat picked up 16 survivors, who were transferred on board one of the three military vessels involved in the search and rescue operation.

The state-run Tunis Afrique Presse agency gave a death toll of at least 70 people.

About 164 people died on the route between Libya and Europe in the first four months of 2019, UNHCR figures show.

The survivors were brought to the coast by the Tunisian Navy and are awaiting permission to disembark.

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The Mediterranean was "more deadly than ever" in early 2018, according to a report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which estimated that one in 18 people attempting to cross it die or disappear at sea. Navy units have recovered only three bodies so far, it said in a statement.

"This is a tragic and awful reminder of the risks still faced by those who attempt to cross the Mediterranean", the UNHCR's Vincent Cochetel said in a statement.

Most of the passengers on the doomed vessel reportedly came from sub-Saharan Africa, although citizens of Morocco and Bangladesh were allegedly among the survivors.

16 migrants were rescued around 64 kilometers off the coast of Tunisia.

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On Friday, UN refugee agency spokesman Babar Baloch called on governments around the world to help, voicing concerns over the lack of boats available to help pick up migrants and refugees, Reuters reported.

Although the fighting in Libya has made the situation more hard for people-trafficking rackets, worldwide aid officials have warned that it could also prompt more Libyans to flee their country.

Even with 65 dead, the Friday tragedy is the deadliest sinking during the Mediterranean migrant route since January this year, when some 117 migrants went missing after leaving Libya in a rubber dinghy.

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