The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Thursday said 220 people drowned off Libya on Tuesday and Wednesday while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. At least 1,000 people have died this year on this route, which links Africa and Europe, according to the UN refugee agency.

The UNHCR in a statement said it was shocked and saddened by the reports. The refugee agency called for urgent international action to strengthen rescue efforts at sea by relevant groups, including non-governmental organisations and commercial vessels, throughout the Mediterranean.

On Tuesday, a wooden boat carrying an unknown number of refugees and migrants capsized off Libya. Of the estimated 100 passengers, only five survived. They were rescued by the Libyan coastguard. The same day a rubber dinghy carrying around 130 people sank at a different location off the Libyan coast. Around 70 people are believed to have drowned in this incident.

The following day, the Libyan Coast Guard conducted a rescue operation off Garabulli, 64 km east of Tripoli. The survivors reported that over 50 people travelling with them had died.

Since the beginning of this year, the Libyan Coast Guard has rescued more than 8,000 people and dropped them off at disembarkation points along the coast.

On June 7, at least 46 Ethiopians drowned after a boat carrying around 100 refugees capsized on its way from the Horn of Africa to Yemen.