UNHCR appeals for safe crossing for refugees as 2014 migrant arrivals in Italy top 100,000

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MILAN — The U.N. refugee agency says over 100,000 migrants — more than half of them refugees from war or persecution — have reached Italy by sea this year.

The UNHCR renewed its appeal Thursday for European countries to provide alternatives to the perilous sea crossings, often aboard unseaworthy fishing boats, by smugglers across the Mediterranean Sea. It estimated that 1,500 migrants have died or gone missing crossing the Mediterranean this year, 1,300 since June.

More than 1,900 migrants arrived in Italy on Thursday, bringing the year-to-date total to 100,475 and far outstripping last year's 42,000 arrivals. The UNHCR says 29 percent of this year's arrivals are Eritreans and 18 percent are Syrians, both considered refugees.

UNHCR spokeswoman Barbara Molinari said people fleeing war should "be given other ways to Europe."

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