The bodies of at least twelve Pakistani refugees who drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea will be sent back to Pakistan, Libyan officials say, reported Press TV.

An official at a Tripoli hospital said that the bodies of 12 Pakistanis who died in the incident were recovered and brought to a morgue in the capital Tripoli, awaiting repatriation.

According to an official at the Pakistan embassy in Libya, the victims are mostly from Gujrat district in Punjab province.

An estimated 90 refugees were feared to have drowned off the coast of Libya after a smuggler boat capsized early on Friday. A total of 32 Pakistanis are believed to have been on the boat.

The vessel had been meant to take the refugees toward Italy but instead sank not far from the coast.

There has recently been an increase in the number of Pakistanis attempting to make the crossing from Libya toward Italy.

Pakistanis are the third largest group, after Eritreans and Tunisians, who make up a growing number of those attempting the hazardous voyage across the Mediterranean to Italy from North Africa.

Libya remains a major gateway for asylum seekers attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the Italian Interior Ministry, so far this year, just over 3,500 migrants are recorded to have crossed from Libya to Italy, about 60 percent fewer than the number recorded during the same period last year.

More than 600,000 people are believed to have made the journey from Libya to Italy over the past four years.