The United Nations has called for urgent action on migrants and refugees after 40 people were feared dead or missing after a shipwreck off the coast of Libya.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said that the capacity of the authorities to save lives at sea had decreased despite 900 people dying in the Mediterranean in 2019.
"This is what happens when the humanitarian act of rescue gets politicized. It is inhumane, immoral and illegal," he said.
The Libyan coastguard has intercepted or rescued 5,400 migrants in 2019, according to the UNHCR, as boats packed with migrants trying to reach Italy capsize off the north African country's coast.
Charlie Yaxley, from the UNHCR, told Euronews that a rescue operation by local fishermen and the coastguard had been underway since Tuesday morning. He said the survivors included people from Sudan, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.
"This highlights once again the urgent need for increased search and rescue capacity on the Mediterranean and for meaningful alternatives inside Libya so that refugees don’t feel they have to take these fatal journeys in the first place," he said.
"Particularly on the Libya-to-Europe crossing, we are seeing an incredibly worrying rise in the rate that people are dying. We now have a situation where one person dies on that route for every six or seven people who reach European shores.
"Compared to previous years the total number of arrivals coming to Europe is down significantly but what we still see is a high loss of life, so there is no longer a crisis of arrivals, but instead a real crisis of deaths.
"It’s been clear for some time now that the status quo cannot continue. We have had similar tragedies occurring far too often in recent weeks and months and each time we see an outpouring of expressions of sympathy but those sentiments must now translate into meaningful action."