Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said around 100 people were believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean on Wednesday, according to 27 migrants who had been plucked to safety and were being brought to Italy.

The surviving group, all men, said they had set sail from a beach close to Tripoli before dawn on Monday. After several hours the traffickers travelling with them aboard a separate boat took their engine and left them to their fate, without a satellite phone to call for help.

The overcrowded dinghy began rapidly taking on water and deflated. Tossed for two days and nights on rough seas, some passengers fell overboard, while others succumbed to exhaustion.

By the time the British military ship Enterprise — engaged in the anti-trafficking Sofia operation — found them, they discovered just 27 people alive, clinging to what was left of the dinghy.