Migrant death toll in the Mediterranean sea continues to rise

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UN Photo/Philip Behan

The number of migrants who have died in the Mediterranean sea trying to reach Europe this year, has reached 500 according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

On Monday, the Libyan coast guard informed UNHCR that it had recovered 12 bodies from a boat accident believed to have occurred on Sunday.

Among the victims of the boat tragedy was a Syrian mother and her two children aged three and six years.

UNHCR says the ill-fated boat was overloaded well above its capacity of 200 people.

Adrian Edwards from UNHCR says over 217 migrants have now drowned off the Libyan coast in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean sea into Europe.

"UNHCR applauds search and rescue operations being run by government authorities but asks that such operations are further strengthened – particularly in areas with high concentrations of boat crossings. We are also urging States worldwide to look at providing legal alternatives to dangerous sea journeys. These might include increased family reunification, speedy resettlement and humanitarian admissions. Governments are additionally being encouraged to resist punitive or deterrent measures including detention for people seeking safety."

About 37,000 asylum-seekers and refugees are registered with UNHCR's Tripoli and Benghazi offices, with Syrians making up the largest group.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.

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