'Largest mass grave': Bodies found washed up on beach
WARNING – DISTRESSING CONTENT: Confronting photos from a beach are exposing the human toll of the migrant crisis as the Mediterranean is dubbed the "planet's largest mass grave".
Non-governmental organisation Proactiva Open Arms, a group devoted to search and rescue at sea, shared photos of the dead bodies of children on the sand as desperate plights to start a new life in Europe take deadly turns.
The harrowing images show half-clothed toddlers and a woman face down in the sand on a beach in Libya after getting into trouble in the Mediterranean Sea.
"Lives devastated in a sea that spits the bodies that leave [for] Europe," Proactiva Open Arms wrote on Facebook alongside the grisly images.
"Women, children, young people who were only looking for a worthy future.
"They don't matter to anyone."
Routes becoming 'longer and dangerous'
Refugees are now forced to take a dangerous route in the hope of reaching Europe after the main entry points were closed.
At the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016, Lesbos and other Greek islands were the main points of entry for 900,000 refugees who migrated.
However that was no longer an option after an agreement between the EU and Turkey in March 2016 saw refugees diverted to Turkey if they reached the Aegean Islands.
"The existing routes that are longer and more dangerous in Central Mediterranean were intensified," Proactiva Open Arms says on its website.
"The journey is much longer, approximately 300km to the island of Lampedusa and over 500km to Sicily, therefore the number of deaths in this critical area is consistently growing."
20,000 refugees have died at sea in seven years
The current route to Europe starts on the Libyan coast, where citizens are fleeing the country's humanitarian crisis in the wake of its civil war and armed groups provoking violence and instability.
Those wishing to flee are packed onto precarious vessels, according to Proactiva Open Arms, that can hold up to 700 people.
The NGO says the vessels never have enough fuel to reach a safe port.
"Once in international waters, luck is their only option. All they can do is wait for someone to find them, rescue them and take them to a safe port in Europe," Proactiva Open Arms says on its website.
"There is no guarantee that this will happen, despite hundreds of ships sailing in the area each day.
"The desperation is so intense that they play all their cards at once."
The NGO adds the Mediterranean is the "largest mass grave on the planet".
"The number of people risking their lives in the Mediterranean in order to flee from hell is not slowing down."
According to Proactiva Open Arms, 20,000 people seeking refuge in Europe have died in the Mediterranean since 2014.
Data published by UN's International Organisation for Migration says there have been 632 deaths of migrants in the Central Mediterranean so far this year.