Somalis and Eritreans top migrants crossing Mediterranean into southern Europe: UNHCR

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Migrants arriving on Italy’s Lampedusa Island after crossing the Mediterranean on a dilapidated boat. [UNHCR/F.Noy]

More than 8,000 migrants and asylum seekers landed on the coasts of Italy and Malta during the first six months of the year, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reports.

UNHCR says the majority departed from North Africa, principally Libya, while others crossed from Greece and Turkey.

The Mediterranean is one of the world's busiest seaways, making it dangerous for those trying to enter southern Europe, according to agency spokesperson Adrian Edwards.

"In view of the perils UNHCR again calls on all vessels at sea to be on alert for migrants and refugees in need of help. We also renew our call to all shipmasters in the Mediterranean to remain vigilant and to carry out their duty of rescuing vessels in distress."

UNHCR says most of those making the journey across the Mediterranean came from countries in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Somalia and Eritrea.

Other countries of origin include Egypt, Pakistan and Syria, as well as the Gambia, Mali and Afghanistan.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’05″

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