A boat carrying more than 250 African immigrants en route to Europe to seek asylum sank off the Libyan coast. Most passengers are feared dead in the tragedy.

The Libyan navy has said they were able to recover only 26 people so far even as the poorly-equipped personnel struggled to carry out emergency measures with the limited resources at hand.

"There are so many dead bodies floating in the sea," navy spokesperson Ayub Qassem told Reuters.

The spokesperson added that most of the passengers were Africans and the boat capsized near Tajoura, about 15kms east of the Libyan capital Tripoli.

The number of asylum-seekers from several African nations has been increasing in recent years. Libya has turned into a haven for people smugglers who capitalise on the political turmoil and the desperate Africans seeking to escape the perils of their nations.

Most immigrants head to Italy in search of a better living by escaping from their lawless countries.

In a similar tragedy in August, a wooden boat with more than 200 passengers onboard sank off the Libyan coast killing dozens of Africans, who were mostly Eritreans and Somalis.