File photo: Migrants attempting to reach Europe illegally. (File photo: AFP)
Tunisia rescued Thursday 166 migrants stranded at sea for nearly a week, recovering the bodies of 16 others who died attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to Europe, security officials said.
The migrants, who included 65 Moroccans, 62 Bangladeshis and 15 Egyptians, and who were aged between 15 and 48, set off from Libyan coast overnight Friday to Saturday, Tunisian defence ministry spokesman Mohamed Zekri said.
Their boat broke down off neighbouring Tunisia near the southern port Zarzis.
National Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli confirmed 16 of the group had died on board, and said investigations were underway to determine the cause of death.
The route between Libya and Europe is considered the most dangerous one across the Mediterranean.
Over 890 people are known to have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean so far this year, a rise of 130 percent on the same period of last year, the International Organization for Migration said last week.
Since the start of summer, the number of crossings have increased as migrants take advantage of the good weather and calmer seas.
Despite being plunged into chaos after the fall of Moamer Kadhafi's regime in 2011, Libya has become a favoured springboard for migrants seeking what they believe will be a better life in Europe.