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Migrants sit at a naval base after they were brought back by Libyan coast guards in Tripoli, Libya January 7, 2018. REUTERS/Hani Amara

(reuters_tickers)

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya's coastguard on Sunday recovered the bodies of two female migrants who perished trying to cross the Mediterranean and picked up at least 250 survivors from two boats east of Tripoli, officials said.

One of the boats sank and the other was badly overcrowded, coastguard officials said.

Survivors said that several dozen migrants were unaccounted for and were feared to have drowned.

The boats were at sea near Garabulli, where departures have become more common since local armed groups began preventing boats from leaving from the coast to the west of Tripoli last summer.

Slightly fewer than half as many migrants reached Europe by sea in 2017 than 2016, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), largely because of a drop in crossings between Libya and Italy.

The IOM said that nearly 120,000 migrants docked in Italy over the course of last year, out of a total of more than 171,500 who arrived in Europe by sea, mostly fleeing war in the Middle East and poverty in Africa.

(Reporting by Hani Amara; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by David Goodman)

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Reuters