More than 120 migrant bodies washed up in Libya's Sabratha in July

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More than 120 bodies of migrants who died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe have washed up around Sabratha in western Libya this month, the city's mayor said on Sunday.

Hussein Thwadi said bodies had washed up on a daily basis, with 53 found on a single day last week.

Libya is a common departure point for migrants seeking to travel to Europe by boat, many of them fleeing violence, repression or poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Political turmoil and armed conflict in Libya have given smugglers the space to work with impunity, running trafficking networks that bring migrants across the Sahara desert to the coast.

Of more than 3,000 migrants known to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year, about three out of four perished trying to reach Italy from North Africa, mainly Libya, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Nearly 90,000 migrants had crossed the central Mediterranean to Italy as of this week, the IOM said, a 14 percent increase on the previous year.

As the number of attempted crossings from Libya picked up in the spring with the arrival of calmer weather, many of the boats have been leaving from the coastline near Sabratha.

"The whole coast of Sabratha is open," Thwadi told Reuters by phone. "There are patrols but they do not have enough capacity to tackle this crisis."

"Illegal migration existed before, but with insecurity and the lack of state authorities the crisis has become worse and worse."

Thwadi said most of the migrants whose bodies washed up this month were from sub-Saharan African states, though there were also 23 Tunisians. Red Crescent volunteers and local officials have been removing them for burial in a cemetery for unidentified bodies in Sabratha, he said.

A U.N.-backed government that has been trying to establish itself in Tripoli since March says tackling migration is among its priorities.

But the government is struggling to manage complex security and economic challenges, and still faces political opposition on the ground.

Thwadi said he had raised the issue with the new government's leadership but had not yet received any concrete response.

Scroll through below for more photos about the Libya migrant crisis:

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Libya Migrant Crisis
Workers for the Red Crescent carry the body of a dead migrant, in a black body bag, to a nearby truck, at the waterfront in Zuwara, about 105 kilometers (65 miles) west of Tripoli, Libya, Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. Two ships went down Thursday off the western Libyan city, where Hussein Asheini of the Red Crescent said over 100 bodies had been recovered. About 100 people were rescued, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, with at least 100 more believed to be missing. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)
A worker for the Red Crescent prepares to pull the a body of a migrant from the water, in Zuwara, about 105 kilometers (65 miles) west of Tripoli, Libya, Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. Two ships went down Thursday off the western Libyan city, where Hussein Asheini of the Red Crescent said over 100 bodies had been recovered. About 100 people were rescued, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, with at least 100 more believed to be missing. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)
The arm of a dead migrant is seen at the waterfront of Zuwara, about 105 kilometers (65 miles) west of Tripoli, Libya, Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. Two ships went down Thursday off the western Libyan city, where Hussein Asheini of the Red Crescent said over 100 bodies had been recovered. About 100 people were rescued, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, with at least 100 more believed to be missing. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)
Workers for the Red Crescent examine photos of a migrant as they collect bodies from the water in Zuwara, about 105 kilometers (65 miles) west of Tripoli, Libya, Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. Two ships went down Thursday off the western Libyan city, where Hussein Asheini of the Red Crescent said over 100 bodies had been recovered. About 100 people were rescued, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, with at least 100 more believed to be missing. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)
Workers for the Red Crescent carry the body of a dead migrant, in an orange body bag, to a nearby truck, at the waterfront in Zuwara, about 105 kilometers (65 miles) west of Tripoli, Libya, Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. Two ships went down Thursday off the western Libyan city, where Hussein Asheini of the Red Crescent said over 100 bodies had been recovered. About 100 people were rescued, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, with at least 100 more believed to be missing. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)
Workers for the Red Crescent pull dead migrants from the water and place them in orange-and-black body bags laid out on the waterfront in Zuwara, about 105 kilometers (65 miles) west of Tripoli, Libya, Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. Two ships went down Thursday off the western Libyan city, where Hussein Asheini of the Red Crescent said over 100 bodies had been recovered. About 100 people were rescued, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, with at least 100 more believed to be missing. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)
Workers for the Red Crescent place a dead migrant in an orange-and-black body bag, laid out on the waterfront in Zuwara, about 105 kilometers (65 miles) west of Tripoli, Libya, Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. Two ships went down Thursday off the western Libyan city, where Hussein Asheini of the Red Crescent said over 100 bodies had been recovered. About 100 people were rescued, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, with at least 100 more believed to be missing. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)
In this Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015 photo, a boat, bottom right, carrying migrants that sank off the coast is pulled to shore in Zuwara, Libya. It was not clear how many migrants had drowned. Dozens of boats are launched from lawless Libya each week, with Italy and Greece bearing the brunt of the surge. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)I
In this Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015 photo, rescuers remove the body of a migrant after their boat sank off the coast of in Zuwara, Libya. It was not clear how many migrants had drowned. Dozens of boats are launched from lawless Libya each week, with Italy and Greece bearing the brunt of the surge. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)
In this Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015 photo, rescuers remove the body of a migrant after their boat sank off the coast of in Zuwara, Libya. It was not clear how many migrants had drowned. Dozens of boats are launched from lawless Libya each week, with Italy and Greece bearing the brunt of the surge. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)
In this Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015 photo, a boat carrying migrants when it sank is pulled to shore in Zuwara, Libya. It was not clear how many migrants had drowned. Dozens of boats are launched from lawless Libya each week, with Italy and Greece bearing the brunt of the surge. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)t
In this Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015 photo, a sunken boat carrying migrants is pulled in to the port Zuwara, Libya. It was not clear how many migrants had drowned. Dozens of boats are launched from lawless Libya each week, with Italy and Greece bearing the brunt of the surge. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)
In this Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015 photo, bodies of migrants who drowned off the coast when their boat sank are collected in Zuwara, Libya. It was not clear how many migrants had drowned. Dozens of boats are launched from lawless Libya each week, with Italy and Greece bearing the brunt of the surge. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)
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