A migrant boat sinks off the coast of Greece and they swim to shore

Tomorrow there will be an emergency meeting at the European Union to discuss the crisis of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to find safety in Europe.

Last Sunday, more than 800 people died when their boat was shipwrecked off the coast of Italy.

Since January, more than 1,750 migrants have died trying to make the journey to Europe. This is 30 times more than last year.

Most of the migrants are fleeing from war and poverty in countries such as Syria and Eritrea.  Many are so desperate to escape that they will risk their lives entering over-crowded and dangerous boats.

A Greek Minister, Kostas Isichos, said that northern Europe must do more to help in this crisis. Southern countries Greece, Italy and Spain are struggling to deal with the problem and need more help from their European Union partners in the north.

migrant routes

The UN has said that wealthy countries need to shelter 1 million Syrian refugees over the next five years. This would help end the series of shipwrecks in the Mediterranean. The UN argues that if countries do not provide an official policy to help refugees flee safely, then they will turn to people smugglers.

Smugglers offer to help migrants enter Europe for an extortionate amount of money and often in dangerous and degrading conditions.

Vocabulary: shipwreck (v+n), to sink (v), to struggle (v), wealthy (adj), to shelter (v), people smuggler (n), degrading (adj). Check your understanding of these words here.

Story and Images: BBC