The Head Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has called for a Europe-wide strategy to help save the lives of refugees who are trying to reach Europe.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Melissa Fleming said more than 300 people had died in the Mediterranean sea last weekend alone.

She said the only reason more were not dying was because the Italian navy was performing gallant rescues operations.

Ms Fleming said people were travelling to Europe on boats that are unseaworthy, and sometimes have three or four times more people on board than they should.

She said the UNHCR was calling on Europe "to take this incredibly seriously."

"Lives are being lost. And because of the surge of violence around the world, in Syria, in Iraq, in parts of Africa, that are driving more and more people from their homes, we need a Europe-wide strategy to help save these lives," she added.

Ms Fleming said there had been progress.

She said Germany was taking in large numbers of Syrians, and any Syrian person who could make it to Sweden would be given permanent refugee status there.

However, she said every country should be looking at how it could contribute to helping these people.

Ms Fleming said Lebanon, which had a population of four million people, had let in one million Syrian refugees over three years.

She said countries in Europe, and the richer countries around the world should support countries like Lebanon much more than they are now.