By Nina Larson
Some 224,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, the United Nations has reported a day after more than 200 people were feared drowned trying to make the perilous journey.
"What we have at Europe's doorstep is a refugee crisis," UN refugee agency spokesman William Spindler told AFP in an email.
He said that by the end of July, about 224,000 refugees and migrants had arrived in Europe by sea.
That number is already higher than the total of 219,000 people who made the journey during all of 2014, which until now was the highest number on record.
Nearly all of the people crossing the Mediterranean during the first seven months of the year, often in rickety boats and at the mercy of human traffickers, have landed in Greece (124,000) and in Italy (98,000), he said.
During that period, far from everyone has made it to shore, with more than 2100 people drowning or going missing, Spindler said.
The figure did not take into account the estimated 200 people believed to have perished in a shipwreck off the coast of Libya on Wednesday.
Their fishing boat, believed to have been carrying more than 600 people, ran into difficulty about 15 nautical miles off Libya and tipped over when rescuers neared, after frantic migrants rushed to one side in their desperation to be saved.
Many of those risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean travel on to other European countries, with a number of them setting their sights on Britain, which along with France is grappling with a migrant crisis of its own.