SHAFAQNA -Â The UN estimates that more than 60,000 asylum-seekers have made it to Europe from North Africa this year alone and at least 1,800 have died during their perilous journeys.
â€œEighty-eight people were rescued but the others perished at seaâ€, he said, adding that a claim that the sinking was an accident had still to be verified.
About 280 people were rescued on Thursday in separate operations as they attempted to reach Sicily, said Save the Children, an aid group.
The refugee agency said most of the migrants were men from sub-SaharanAfricanÂ countries, including Somalia, Eritrea, Benin and Mali.
Up to 40 African migrants are feared to have drowned when their rickety boat sank off Libyaâ€™s coast, survivors say.
Sami told theÂ Reuters news agency that the boat they were travelling in started to disintegrate shortly after it put to sea from the Tripoli area.
One 22-year-old Ghanaian cited by the newspaper claimed that some 30 of his fellow travellers had died.
â€œItalyâ€™s reception centres and childrenâ€™s homes are now overwhelmed with the demand, meaning some vulnerable children have to sleep rough or stay in sports halls and churchesâ€, a spokesperson said.
â€œWe heard from them that 35 to 40 people diedâ€, Giovanna Di Benedetto, a spokesperson for Save the Children, told dpa.
So far this year, more than 80,000 migrants have come ashore inÂ Italy, with a similar number arriving in Greece.
The vast majority of the migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East depart from Libya, where human traffickers have taken advantage of a breakdown in order to build up a lucrative business.