Urgent action needed to help migrants, United Nations says

Last updated at 15:17
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Martin reports on why migrants make the dangerous journey

The United Nations says much more must be done to help thousands of migrants trying to reach Europe by boat.

UN figures say 13,500 migrants have been rescued trying to reach Europe so far this year and around 35,000 have arrived from Africa in 2015.

A boat carrying up to 900 people sank off the north African coast on Saturday. Authorities say 28 people were rescued; but many more died.

European leaders are meeting this week to try to work out what to do.

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Dangerous journey

Each year many thousands, many of them children, attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, trying to escape poverty and war in their home countries.

Official figures say nearly 220,000 tried to make the journey in 2014.

Rescued migrants wait on a docksideGetty Images
Even if they reach Europe there's no guarantee they can stay

The journey is very dangerous: criminal gangs organise the crossings illegally, which means there's no-one checking that conditions are safe.

People are packed very tightly into small boats, which leak and often sink.

The biggest numbers arrive in Italy and Greece, because these countries are directly across the sea from Libya in north Africa.

Map of southern Europe and north Africa showing migrant routes
There are many different routes used to get to Europe - but many thousands leave north Africa from Libya

Even if people do make it, they may not be allowed to stay in Europe. There are rules over who can and can't stay, so many have to be sent back to their own countries.