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More than 1,000 refugees have drowned in Mediterranean so far this year, UN says Open in fullscreen

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More than 1,000 refugees have drowned in Mediterranean so far this year, UN says

There is an ever-growing number of refugees losing their lives at sea [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 June, 2018

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The perilous journey between Libya and Europe continues to take hundreds of lives, the UN said, urging for strengthened rescue efforts and better access to asylum.

At least 1,000 refugees have died this year, including more than 200 in two days, after drowning off the coast of Libya while making the perilous journey between Africa and Europe, the UN said on Thursday.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement it was "shocked" by the deaths and called for urgent action to reduce the continuing loss of life.

"UNHCR is dismayed by the ever-growing number of refugees and migrants losing their lives at sea and is calling for urgent international action to strengthen rescue at sea efforts by all relevant and capable actors, including NGOs and commercial vessels, throughout the Mediterranean.

"At the same time, access to protection in countries of first asylum should be ensured, as well as alternative pathways for refugees in Libya trying to cross the sea in search of protection and safety. All these steps are crucial to ensure that no more lives are lost at sea," it said.

According to the UNHCR, around 220 people drowned on Tuesday and Wednesday in three separate tragedies.

On Tuesday, a wooden boat carrying an unknown number of refugees and migrants capsized off the coast of Libya.

Of the estimated 100 passengers, only five survived. They were rescued by the Libyan coastguard, UNHCR said on the basis of survivors' testimony.

On the same day, a rubber dinghy with around 130 people on board sank at a different location off the Libyan coast. 

Sixty survivors were rescued by local fishermen, who took them back to shore. Seventy people are believed to have drowned in the incident.

In the third incident on Wednesday, survivors reported that more than 50 people travelling with them perished before the Libyan coastguard mounted a rescue.

EU leaders have called crisis talks on migration in Brussels on Sunday as the issue of immigration causes fresh divisions on the continent.

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