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Migrant death toll passes 3,000 in Mediterranean this year

Toll 'significantly higher' compared to same time period last year, says International Organisation for Migration
The grim milestone was reached with the discovery of 39 bodies washed up on Libyan shores (AFP)

More than 3,000 migrants and refugees have died while trying to cross the Mediterranean this year, while nearly 250,000 have made the journey to Europe, the International Organisation for Migration has said.

The new toll was reached following the discovery of 39 bodies washed up on the coast of Libya, bringing the current number of casualties among people attempting to cross the Mediterranean to 3,034 so far in 2016, the organisation said on Tuesday.

The IOM said the 2016 death toll among refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe was "significantly higher compared to last year as of end of July 2015 when 1,917 had lost their lives at sea".

A series of shipwrecks involving larger vessels carrying several hundred people have significantly contributed to the toll, it said.

"It has proved extremely difficult to reduce the number of victims despite the constant and increased patrolling of the Mediterranean," said Flavio Di Giacomo, the IOM's spokesman.

The total number of arrivals to Europe this year was also slightly above the 2015 rate. 

Syrians fleeing the country's war again made up the largest group to have risked their lives to make the dangerous sea crossing. Afghans were next on the list, followed by Iraqis. 

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