The European Union says that more than 7,000 migrants have been plucked from the Mediterranean since Friday as an unprecedented wave of people flee conflict and poverty seeking better lives in Europe.

Of those 7,000 EU migration spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said Tuesday that "over 3,500 are still on board rescue vessels and being taken to Italy and so far, 11 bodies were recovered."

More than 280,000 people entered the European Union illegally last year. Many came from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia and made the perilous sea journey from conflict-torn Libya.

European coast guards have been overwhelmed by the numbers.

The EU's top migration official Dimitris Avramopoulos told EU lawmakers Tuesday that the influx "is unfortunately the new norm and we will need to adjust our responses accordingly."