At least nine people have died when a boat carrying dozens of migrants sank off the coast of the island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, Italy’s coastguard said on Monday.
Initial reports by authorities in Sicily who received the distress call put the number of people on board at about 50.
Vessels from the coastguard and customs police reached the vessel, which overturned in rough seas about six nautical miles (approximately 11 kilometres) from the coast of Lampedusa, the coastguard said in a statement.
It confirmed that nine bodies had been recovered.
“This highlights once again that urgent action is needed to address the situation in the Mediterranean,” said Charlie Yaxley, a spokesperson for the United Nations’s refugee agency.
“More than 1,000 people have died on the Mediterranean this year alone, most on the route from Libya to Europe,” he said.
The Italian interior ministry said some 7,939 migrants reached Italy by boat so far this year, down 63 percent from the same period in 2018 and 93 percent on 2017 levels.