10 december 2014
UNHCR says more than 3,400 people have died while crossing the Mediterranean this year in search of asylum or work.
More than 3,400 people have died in the Mediterranean this year trying to reach Europe, the UN's refugee agency said Wednesday, urging governments to take more action to save lives.
The UNHCR said at least 348,000 people, including a growing number of asylum seekers, had taken to the seas worldwide since the beginning of the year.
"Europe, facing conflicts to its south [Libya], east [Ukraine] and southeast [Syria and Iraq] is seeing the largest number of sea arrivals," the agency said.
At least 207,000 people have made the risky Mediterranean sea crossing since January, almost three times the previous high of 70,000 during the Libyan civil war in 2011, according to the UNHCR.
Of these, a record 3,419 died, out of a total of 4,272 reported deaths worldwide on migrant vessels this year.
Most set off from Libya bound for Italy and Malta, looking for work or, increasingly, asylum, the agency said.
The figures were released at the start of a two-day meeting in Geneva hosted by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres on how to protect people who take to the sea to escape persecution, war, instability and poverty.