Refugees take rest on Vos Hestia ship after being rescued by "Save the Children" NGO crew in the Mediterranean sea off Libya coast, June 19, 2017. Image Credit: Reuters

Rome: At least 126 refugees were feared dead after their boat sank off the coast of Libya while trying to make the perilous crossing to Europe, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Monday.

According to four survivors, the refugees left Thursday from Libya but their inflatable boat sank several hours into the journey, IOM spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo said.

The survivors said traffickers intercepted their boat shortly after setting off and stole their engine.

“The boat, which was already overloaded, quickly began taking on water and sank,” Di Giacomo said.

The four survivors — two Sudanese and two Nigerian nationals — were picked up by Libyan fisherman who handed them over to another refugee boat making the dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossing.

Di Giacomo said the survivors were finally rescued by the Italian coast guard and taken to Sicily along with about a thousand others who have been rescued in recent days.

Italy has registered more than 65,000 refugee arrivals since January, up nearly a fifth from the same period last year.

More than 1,800 people have died attempting the crossing since the start of the year, according to IOM figures.