The head of the European border surveillance agency Frontex says that recent tragedies involving migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe show that the continent must do more to stop economic migration.

Fabrice Leggeri told The Associated Press on Monday that Europe should help people fleeing political persecution in their countries, but economic migration, he said, is another matter and should be prevented.

Leggeri, whose agency is based in Warsaw, said Europe should also counter the smugglers who lure migrants with promises of safe passage to Europe, while they in fact expose them to danger.

Migrants crossing the Mediterranean are fleeing conflict, repression and poverty in countries such as Eritrea, Niger, Syria, Iraq and Somalia.