World

UN refugee agency says presumed deaths of 400 migrants among the worst recent sea tragedies

  • In this picture taken on Tuesday, April 14, 2015 a woman waits to disembark from an Italian Navy vessel in the harbor of Reggio Calabria, southern Italy. The precise number of migrants who have perished in the Mediterranean sea as they flee poverty, war and other conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Asia is unknown. Only the bodies that wash ashore or are found drowned in the sea or dead aboard, of thirst or exposure, by rescuers are counted. (AP Photo/Adriana Sapone)

    In this picture taken on Tuesday, April 14, 2015 a woman waits to disembark from an Italian Navy vessel in the harbor of Reggio Calabria, southern Italy. The precise number of migrants who have perished in the Mediterranean sea as they flee poverty, war and other conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Asia is unknown. Only the bodies that wash ashore or are found drowned in the sea or dead aboard, of thirst or exposure, by rescuers are counted. (AP Photo/Adriana Sapone)  (The Associated Press)

  • Rescued migrants line up after disembarking at the southern Italian port of Corigliano, Italy, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Survivors of a capsized migrant boat off Libya have told Tuesday, April 14, the aid group Save the Children that an estimated 400 people are believed to have drowned. Even before the survivors were interviewed, Italy's Coast Guard said it assumed that there were many dead given the size of the ship and that nine bodies had been found. (Francesco Arena, ANSA via AP)

    Rescued migrants line up after disembarking at the southern Italian port of Corigliano, Italy, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Survivors of a capsized migrant boat off Libya have told Tuesday, April 14, the aid group Save the Children that an estimated 400 people are believed to have drowned. Even before the survivors were interviewed, Italy's Coast Guard said it assumed that there were many dead given the size of the ship and that nine bodies had been found. (Francesco Arena, ANSA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Rescued migrants line up after disembarking at the southern Italian port of Corigliano, Italy, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Survivors of a capsized migrant boat off Libya have told Tuesday, April 14, the aid group Save the Children that an estimated 400 people are believed to have drowned. Even before the survivors were interviewed, Italy's Coast Guard said it assumed that there were many dead given the size of the ship and that nine bodies had been found. (Francesco Arena, ANSA via AP)

    Rescued migrants line up after disembarking at the southern Italian port of Corigliano, Italy, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Survivors of a capsized migrant boat off Libya have told Tuesday, April 14, the aid group Save the Children that an estimated 400 people are believed to have drowned. Even before the survivors were interviewed, Italy's Coast Guard said it assumed that there were many dead given the size of the ship and that nine bodies had been found. (Francesco Arena, ANSA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

The U.N. refugee agency says the shipwreck in the Mediterranean this week, in which 400 migrants are presumed to have died, is among the deadliest single incidents in the last decade.

The tragedy comes amid an unprecedented wave of migration toward Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

UNHCR Italy spokeswoman Barbara Molinari says 900 migrants have died or gone missing at sea so far this year, part of a phenomenon the agency has been tracking since 2011. In most cases, no bodies are found and the deaths are presumed based on survivor accounts or, when no boats are recovered, reports by family members whose loved ones never arrive in Europe.

The UNHCR estimates 3,500 migrants died in the Mediterranean last year, up from 600 in 2013.