Bodies of more than 70 migrants washed ashore in western Libya

The bodies were recovered Monday afternoon and evening near the city of Zawiya.

"It appears that the deceased had been on a boat attempting to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe", IFRC said in statement issued on Tuesday, adding that a torn rubber dinghy was reportedly found nearby.

Red Crescent spokesman Mohammed al-Misrati told The Associated Press that he feared more bodies might surface.

The Red Crescent published pictures of the bodies laid out in white and black body bags along the beach. Misrati said the bodies washed ashore on the city's coast, referring to a place whose transliterated name is also referred to as "ez-Zauia", located some 50 km west of Tripoli.

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Libya is a preferred departure point for illegal immigrants wanting to cross the Mediterranean towards European shores. Another 12 migrants from the boat remain missing and are "presumed drowned", according to the United Nations migration agency. Leggeri said that more and more smugglers are using poorly built smaller boats, and packing them up with migrants to increase revenue.

"We are seeing the new boats, which are not equipped with anything, but they carry more people", he said. "This is going to be even more disastrous for the migrants".

The Libya to Italy smuggling route saw record numbers of drownings previous year. That's compared to 2,869 deaths in 2015 and 3,161 in 2014.

In January, Frontex recorded 228 drowning deaths, the largest monthly toll in recent years.

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Having largely closed off sea crossings between Turkey and Greece a year ago, the European Union is searching for ways to stem the flow of migrants from Libya.

Amid the tumult, Libya has grown as a smuggling hub for migrants and refugees seeking access to Italy and the rest of the European Union.

Libya is largely governed by local militias, many of which profit from the trafficking.

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