More than 3,700 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year

The UN's refugee agency says 2016 is "the worst we have seen"

More than 3,700 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year

Migrants and refugees fleeing Libya on board of a wooden boat at sail in the Mediterranean sea. Image: Emilio Morenatti AP/Press Association Images

The UN refugee agency has said more than 3,700 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year.

3,740 refugees and migrants have died trying to make the perilous crossing so far this year - just short of the 3,771 reported for the entirety of 2015.

The increase comes despite a significant drop in the number of people attempting to reach Europe.

1,015,078 made the crossing last year, compared to 327,800 in 2016 so far.

UNHCR says a number of factors have contributed to the high death toll this year - including a large number of crossings on the perilous North Africa to Italy route, and people smugglers using flimsier vessels.

A number of major incidents have been linked with bad weather. The UNHCR says there has also been "mass embarkations of thousands of people at a time" which makes rescue efforts more challenging.

UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler said: "UNHCR is alarmed at the high death toll being seen this year among refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean [...] This is the worst we have seen.

"From one death for every 269 arrivals last year, in 2016 the likelihood of dying has spiralled to one in 88. On the Central Mediterranean route between Libya and Italy the likelihood of dying is even higher, at one death for every 47 arrivals," he added.