Three boat accidents on the Mediterranean over the past five days have claimed over 300 lives, causing a total of 1,889 deaths this year, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Tuesday.
UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told journalists that the number of people who have lost their lives when crossing the Mediterranean spiked this summer, with 1,600 deaths reported since the start of June.
Fleming said that many of those risking lives at sea were refugees fleeing wars, conflicts and persecution in an attempt to seek shelter in Europe.
Most immigrants came from Libya, the UN refugee agency said, citing a worsening security situation and a growth of smuggling operations.
This was followed by Eritreans, Syrians and Somalis.
UNHCR said urgent action needed to be taken, including finding legal alternatives to dangerous boat journeys. It urged for procedures to be put in place to allow for identifying the bodies recovered at sea.
UNHCR statistics showed estimated deaths and people missing in irregular crossings through the Mediterranean to Europe were 1,500 in 2011, 500 in 2012, and over 600 in 2013.
Out of the over 124,000 estimated arrivals in Europe so far this year, the majority landed in Italy with more than 108,000 as of Aug. 24.