NEW YORK, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- The United Nations marked a grim milestone on Tuesday, announcing the deadliest week for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.
UNHCR, the U.N.'s refugee agency, noted three separate incidents in which more than 300 migrants drowned over the weekend.
On August 22, a boat that was over capacity with at least 270 passengers aboard capsized east of Tripoli, trapping those on the lower deck. Only 19 passengers survived.
The next day, the Italian Navy rescued 73 people from a damaged dinghy transporting mostly West African and Sudanese passengers, and recovered the bodies of 18 passengers with 10 others still missing.
On Sunday evening, a fishing boat carrying an estimated 400 people overturned. Italian rescuers saved 364 passengers and recovered 24 bodies, with the remaining believed to have drowned.
UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming, speaking to reporters from Geneva, observed that "The main departure country for Europe is Libya, where the worsening security situation has fostered the growth of people smuggling operations, but also prompted refugees and migrants living there to decide to risk the sea rather than remain in a zone of conflict."
"This dramatic situation at Europe's sea borders demands urgent and concerted European action," Fleming noted, "including strengthened search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, ensuring that rescue measures are safe and incur minimum risks for those being rescued."
Since the beginning of the year, 1,889 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean; 1,600 of those deaths occurred since June.