Photo: AP

The UN Refugee Agency announced on Sunday that more than 700 migrants crossing from Libya toward Italy may have died in the Mediterranean this past week. The death toll could be as high as 900.

There have been at least three confirmed instances of capsized boats this week. One of these boats, which sank on Thursday, may have been carrying as many as 670 passengers, far more than the initial estimate of 400.

These latest drownings raise the number of migrant who have died in the Mediterranean this year to 2,000. Last year, 3,700 migrants died making this similar journeys.

Most of the migrants who have arrived in Italy recently are from sub-Saharan African countries, like Nigeria, Eritrea, Ghana and Gambia.

In one of the busiest weeks of migrant transit between these countries, some 14,000 people have been rescued at sea since Monday.

Federico Fossi, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told the New York Times, “This was a very intense and exceptional week for the number of fatalities.”

Tommaso Fabri of Medecins San Frontieres emphasized to Reuters that Europe must step up and offer these migrants a haven without them having to risk the dangers and indignation of being smuggled to safer shores. “It’s time that Europe had the courage to offer safe alternatives that allow these people to come without putting their own lives or those of their children in danger,” Fabri said.