barcelona refugee counter
Barcelona's mayor Ada Colau poses in front a digital billboard on 28 July that shows the number of refugees who died in the Mediterranean sea, named 'the shame counter'.JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images

The Mayor of Barcelona has unveiled a real-time "shame counter" next to one of the city's popular beaches tracking the number of refugees and migrants who die while trying to cross the Mediterranean.

The rectangular pillar features a digital counter above the inscription: "This isn't just a number, these are people".

It showed the figure 3,034 – the number of known migrants and refugees who have died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in 2016 – when it was revealed on Thursday (28 July).

"We are inaugurating this shame counter which will update all known victims who drowned in the Mediterranean in real time," said Mayor Ada Colau, whose left-wing coalition won power in 2015.

"We're here to look the Mediterranean in the face and look at this number – 3,034 people who drowned because they were not offered a safe passage."

It comes in the same week the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it had recorded more deaths so far in 2016 than the same time last year, when 1,917 had lost their lives. An estimated 250,000 migrants and refugees had entered Europe by sea in 2016 through 24 July, arriving mostly in Italy and Greece.

The IOM said the higher fatality rate experienced in 2016 was because shipwrecks involved larger vessels with hundreds of people on board, "unlike the usual dinghies that can carry only approximately up to a hundred".

Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM Rome spokesman, said: "Despite the constant and increased patrolling of the Mediterranean, it has proved extremely difficult to reduce the number of victims. Sometimes it has taken only a few shipwrecks to cause hundreds of casualties."

In 2015, the total number of recorded migrant fatalities in the Mediterranean was the highest yet at 3,771 – topping the 3,279 deaths recorded by the IOM in 2014.

Refugees fleeing a war-torn Syria made up the largest group to have attempted the dangerous sea crossing so far this year, followed by Afghans and Iraqis.