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Migrants are seen on a capsizing boat before a rescue operation by Italian navy ships "Bettica" and "Bergamini" off the coast of Libya in this handout picture released by the Italian Marina Militare on May 25, 2016. Marina Militare/Handout via REUTERS

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GENEVA (Reuters) - At least 880 migrants and refugees died trying to cross the Mediterranean last week, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday, giving updated figures after interviewing survivors brought to Italy.

This year is "proving to be particularly deadly" with 2,510 lives lost in shipwrecks and capsizing, against 1,855 in the same period in 2015, UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said.

"At the moment (smugglers) are packing people on boats that are barely sea-worthy and many cases are not meant to make the crossing. What happens is as soon as they depart from shore they call for rescuers and then rescue services come and rescue them," Spindler told a news briefing.

"It's a race against time to get there before the boats sink, in some cases it gets there too late."

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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