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26 Aug 2014
A boat carrying sub-Saharan African migrant workers arrives in Lampedusa from Tripoli. Thousands of migrants have made the perilous journey. © Kate Thomas/IRIN
Nearly 1,900 migrants have lost their lives on the Mediterranean Sea this year trying to cross into Europe , according to the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The number of dead or missing migrants this year surpasses by far the 700 recorded in 2013 and about 500 recorded in 2012.
In the past four days up to 300 lives have been lost in three different boat tragedies on the Mediterranean sea.
The three boats had originated from the Libyan coastline.
Eritrea and Syria are the two largest countries of origin for irregular migrants arriving in Italy by sea.
UNHCR says the current unrest and instability in Libya was fuelling the growth of people smuggling operations, but also prompted many refugees and migrants living there to seek any available escape route.
Chris Lom is the spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration.
“Something absolutely must be done now by European countries to save more lives at sea. Because obligation to save lives surpasses everything else. But ultimately saving lives is not the solution. We have to provide a political solution to find alternatives to stop these people getting on the boats and those include providing safe and legal entry into Europe, resettlement opportunities, family reunification, and voluntary return for economic migrants who do not need international protection.”
Statistics by IOM and UNHCR indicate that over 124,000 irregular migrants have arrived in Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta from north Africa this year up from 60,000 registered in 2013.
UNHCR says as many as 14,000 children have arrived in Italy this year, majority of them unaccompanied.
Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.