June 11, 2017 / 4:19 PM / in a month

U.N. refugee agency says 2,500 people rescued off Libya at weekend

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VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. refugee agency called on Sunday for European countries to help Italy cope with an increasing flow of migrants after some 2,500 were rescued at the weekend and dozens were reported missing at sea after leaving Libya.

Libyan coastguards recovered the bodies of eight migrants from an inflatable boat found east of Tripoli on Saturday.

At least 52 are feared missing from two incidents involving large numbers of people on flimsy dinghies off the coast of Libya on Saturday, the UNHCR said.

The Italian coast guard coordinated over a dozen search and rescue efforts to save lives.

The UNHCR called on other countries to help.

"Solutions cannot just be in Italy," the UNHCR said. "New measures on both sides of the Central Mediterranean Sea to seriously combat trafficking are needed."

The agency also called for renewed efforts to help refugees and migrants in the countries they cross before they reach Libya, saying people were exposed to "horrific exploitation and abuse" in these states.

Libya is the most common departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea, with the number making the crossing rising sharply since 2014.

Over 1,770 people are estimated to have died or gone missing trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea so far in 2017, according to the UNHCR.

More are believed to have died in the Sahara before arriving in Libya.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Mark Potter

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