The Italian Navy has recovered a ship that sank off the coast of Libya last year with hundreds of people on board.

Up to 700 refugees were believed to be on the vessel when it went down in the first half of 2015 while on its way to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Rescuers recovered some bodies after the incident but hundreds of others remained unrecovered in the Mediterranean Sea. 

The UN refugee agency at the time said that the boat flipped when those on board scrambled to attract the attention of a passing ship.

Tens of thousands of people from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East use maritime routes connecting the African continent to European islands in the Mediterranean. 

Thousands of refugee deaths

With 3,771 deaths, 2015 was the deadliest year on record for those crossing the Mediterranean in an attempt to reach Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration.

In 2016 the number of deaths stands at more than 2,500 people, UNHCR said.

Refugees pay thousands of dollars to people smugglers to get on to the boats, which are often overcrowded, low on supplies, and not fit to travel long distances.

Last year more than a million people made their way to Europe by sea from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Many were fleeing war and political oppression, while others sought better economic prospects.

Number of child refugees crossing into Europe swells

Source: Al Jazeera