A record number of migrants are dying in the Mediterranean

 
Jessica Morris
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This weekend hundreds of migrants died when their boat capsized as they tried to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The United Nations said at least 800 people lost their lives in the sinking - making it the deadliest such incident ever recorded in the Mediterranean. It follows an incident last week in which 400 migrants died.

"April 2015 has seen the highest number of casualties ever recorded in the Mediterranean," the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) told City A.M.

The chart shows last year around 3,500 migrants died trying to cross the the Mediterranean Sea. In the four months of this year, more than 1,700 have perished.

This is despite the fact migration season, typically occurring in the warmer summer months, is yet to start.

European officials have come under fire for scaling back the Italian-run search and rescue missions, which they argued were encouraging more people to come to Europe.

"This disaster confirms how urgent it is to restore a robust rescue-at-sea operation and establish credible legal avenues to reach Europe," said António Guterres, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees.

The criticism comes alongside calls for greater efforts to stabilise countries that migrants are fleeing. For example Eritrea - which a large share come from - has one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world.

And others want policymakers to go after the human traffickers who they say are driving the surge.

But failure to act could mean this is likely to be the worst year for migrant deaths on the Mediterranean.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) added today that it believes deaths so far in 2015 are 30 times higher than this time last year, when just 56 deaths of migrants had been reported.

"IOM now fears the 2014 total of 3,279 migrant [deaths] on the Mediterranean may be surpassed this year in a matter of weeks, and could well top 30,000 by the end of the year, based on the current death toll. It could actually be even higher," Joel Millman, a spokesman for IOM, said.

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