Around 300 people are missing and presumed dead in the Mediterranean Sea while attempting to migrate from Africa to Italy, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said.

According to UNHCR, the deceased were among the migrants and refugees who had left the coast of Libya in four dinghies.

UNHCR Europe bureau director Vincent Cochetel said: "This is a tragedy on an enormous scale and a stark reminder that more lives could be lost if those seeking safety are left at the mercy of the sea.

"Saving lives should be our top priority. Europe cannot afford to do too little too late."

Earlier this week, the Italian Coast Guard rescued around 105 people from one of the dinghies, which had capsized in the sea, but 29 of the group later died of hypothermia.

"More lives could be lost if those seeking safety are left at the mercy of the sea."

The coast guard reported the rescue of nine people from two other boats, where 216 passengers are believed to have drowned.

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By GlobalData

The fourth dinghy reportedly carrying around 100 migrants is still missing and survivors have said the boat disappeared at sea.

The migrant survivors are from Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Mali and Mauritania, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) stated.

New figures published by the Italian Ministry of the Interior revealed that around 3,528 migrants have already crossed the Mediterranean in January, regardless of severe winter conditions.

According to UNHCR, at least 218,000 people, including migrants and refugees, crossed the Mediterranean in 2014.

Image: The Italian Coast Guard rescued migrants bound for Italy. Photo: courtesy of Francesco Malavolta/IMO.