At least 348,000 people have attempted irregular sea crossing worldwide since January, mostly migrants and asylum seekers, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has revealed.
The UNHCR said that these sea crossings make it difficult to draw reliable comparisons with previous years’ figures, and urged that international community is losing its focus on saving lives.
According to UNHCR, more than 4,272 deaths at sea were reported, with 3,419 occuring in the Mediterranean region alone.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said: "This is a mistake and precisely the wrong reaction for an era in which record numbers of people are fleeing wars.
"Security and immigration management are concerns for any country, but policies must be designed in a way that human lives do not end up becoming collateral damage."
The largest number of irregular crossings was reported in Europe, where more than 207,000 people crossed the Mediterranean this year so far.
In the African region, more than 82,680 people have crossed the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea in attempts to reach Middle Eastern countries, while South East Asia recorded 54,000 sea crossings over the first 11 months of the year.
Fatalities reported in the African region and the South East Asia reached 242 and 540 respectively.
Meanwhile, in the Caribbean at least 4,775 people made sea crossings this year and 71 incidents of death or missing persons were recorded.
A recent report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has stated that the number of migrant fatalities worldwide has surpassed 40,000 since the year 2000.
According to the report, more than 3,000 migrants have died this year on their way to Europe and 22,000 refugees died since 2000 in similar incidents, mostly on illegal routes across the Mediterranean Sea.
Image: A boat of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea by the Italian Navy. Photo: courtesy of UNHCR/A.D’Amato.