By Gozde Bayar
GENEVA (AA) - At least 1,000 migrants have died so far this year in the Mediterranean Sea, said the UN refugee agency on Tuesday.
“For the 6th year in a row, more than 1,000 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea,” United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Charlie Yaxley said on Twitter.
Yaxley said the “bleak milestone” had been reached and priority must be to save lives.
“We need to do more to stop people attempting these dangerous boat journeys in the first place,” he said, adding that safe and legal alternative pathways to access asylum in Europe is needed.
People should never feel they have no other choice than to put their lives in the hands of smugglers, he stressed.
“There needs to a return to the seas of an EU State search and rescue operation. Naval assets alone are not enough. Previous naval missions in the past, such as Mare Nostrum, have saved thousands of lives and should return,” he added.
"UNHCR is urgently calling for an increase in search and rescue capacity, including a return of EU state vessels to search and rescue operations, and an acknowledgement of the crucial role of NGO boats in saving lives at sea," Yaxley said in a statement.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) stated that at least 15,000 victims have lost their lives in Mediterranean crossings since 2014.