A researcher with the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the European Union (EU) to make collective efforts to minimize migrant deaths at seas ahead of an EU summit to discuss its migration and asylum policy.

“Saving lives and increasing safe pathways into Europe should be the EU’s priorities while ensuring that all cooperation with countries of origin and transit countries respects international human rights standards,” said Judith Sunderland, a senior Western Europe researcher at the HRW.

Sunderland authored a recent HRW report titled “The Mediterranean Migration Crisis: Why People Flee, What the EU Should Do,” which was published on Friday.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), most of the migrants that risked the dangerous sea journey in the first five months of 2015 came from countries torn apart by “war and generalized violence” such as Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan.

 

This comes as migrants continue to attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe, with such crossings expanding at an unprecedented level, reaching more than 10,000 since January 2015, according to the figures released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

According to an Amnesty International report, over 600,000 migrants asked for asylum in the EU in 2014.

Some 3,500 people have drowned at sea while trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2014; and 1,865 people have died so far in 2015.

EU leaders are scheduled to meet on June 25 and 26 to discuss European Commission proposals toward a “European Migration Agenda.

“The majority of those crossing the Mediterranean are taking terrible risks because they have to, not because they want to,” said Sunderland.

The HRW says it has devised a plan to urge EU states to firmly commit to responsibility sharing by maintaining vigorous search and rescue operations at sea, respecting international human rights law, enhancing safe and legal channels into the EU and expanding resettlement for refugees.

Hundreds of migrants are seen in an overcrowded wooden hulled boat in the Mediterranean Sea just north of the coast of Libya with the British Royal Navy Albion-class assault ship HMS Bulwark in the background, May 28, 2015. (© AFP)