BRUSSELS • At least 46,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to reach Italy so far this year, with almost a third of them arriving last week alone.
The total up to Sunday was equivalent to that in the same period last year, with about 14,000 arriving last week, according to Ms Carlotta Sami, spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency. More than 700 migrants died in three shipwrecks last week.
Italian newspapers cited eyewitnesses claiming that those who drowned in one of last week's shipwrecks included about 40 children who were on board a leaky boat that had set out from Libya. The captain of a vessel that had been towing it ordered the tow rope to be cut.
A German non-governmental organisation, Sea-Watch, has tried to shock European public and political opinion by publishing a photograph of a dead baby pulled from the Mediterranean after one capsize last week.
"If we do not want to see such pictures, we have to stop producing them," said Sea-Watch in a statement it released with the photograph on Monday.
On the same day, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi hit back at populist movements that are insisting arrivals are rising fast and accusing him of inaction.
"We save as many lives as possible, knowing that there is no invasion," said Mr Renzi in a weekly newsletter. "The numbers are still the same, more or less."
He said he was hopeful that "finally something is moving" and that the European Union may agree to his Migration Compact package of proposals, including greater investment in the migrants' countries of origin.
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE