About 170 illegal immigrants in a wooden boat was missing off the Libyan coast near Tripoli on Friday, according to a coast guard official.

The stowaways were believed from sub-Saharan African countries and intended to go to Italy. Their boat was feared sank some 60 kilometers east of Tripoli in the Guarakouzi area, the official who declined to disclose his name told Xinhua.

The official said the coast guards were searching the boat and survivors in the area.

Libya has long been a transit point for migrants seeking to reach Malta, Italy, and other places in Europe because of its proximity and relatively loose border control. The Libyan government since earlier July has established an agency in cooperation with neighboring countries to combat illegal immigration and smuggling.