TUNIS (Reuters) - The Tunisian coast guard on Saturday recovered the bodies of 21 migrants, most probably Syrians, who drowned when their boat sank in the Mediterranean near the maritime border with Libya, officials said.
They said the total number of victims found after the sinking was 36, adding that the overcrowded boat probably started its ill-fated journey to Europe in neighbouring Libya, a frequent departure point for illegal migrants.
"The coast guard recovered on Saturday 21 other bodies. The death toll rose to 36," Mustapha Abd El Kabir, an official in Ben Guerdan city, said.
He added that among the dead were eight women and five children.
Migrants have been streaming out of North Africa in rickety boats in rising numbers for years. Italy now hosts over 108,000 of these boat people, Greece nearly 15,000 and Spain 1,800, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday.
Nearly 2,000 have drowned this year while risking the passage from Libya to Europe, it said.
Last week, a wooden boat carrying up to 200 migrants sank only a kilometre (half a mile) off the Libyan coast, the coast guard said.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Stephen Powell)