UN chief "deeply saddened" by new deaths of hundreds of migrants in Mediterranean Sea

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said he was "deeply saddened" by the fact that, once more, hundreds of men, women and children have died in the Mediterranean Sea on their way to Europe in the last few days.

Ban, in a statement issued here by his spokesman Stephane Dujarric, expressed his deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who perished.

"The secretary-general notes with great distress that 2016 is proving to be particularly deadly with some 2,510 lives lost, compared to 1,855 in the same period in 2015," said the statement.

The North Africa-Italy route is reported to be considerably more dangerous than the other Mediterranean routes: 2,119 of the deaths reported thus far in 2016 had been among people making that journey, the statement said.

"While the secretary-general commends the brave efforts of the joint Italian and European search and rescue operations, he calls on concerned governments and organizations to redouble their efforts to save those at risk at sea and to counter the migrant smuggling and human trafficking networks in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas," the statement said.

At least 880 people died in the previous week trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea toward Europe, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The latest drownings, which pushed the death toll for the year to more than 2,000 people, reportedly originated from human trafficking along the North African coastline.

Taking advantage of calm conditions, smugglers in Libya are sending out more and more migrants toward Italy, often on unseaworthy vessels. Drowning deaths are inevitable, even as Italian Coast Guard and navy ships race to answer distress calls.

Last year, more than 3,700 migrants died in the Mediterranean, a figure that could be surpassed this year.

"At the global level, he (Ban) calls for a comprehensive and collective response to large movements of refugees and migrants, including expanded legal pathways," the statement said.

"The Sep. 19 high-level meeting at the United Nations on this issue is a unique opportunity to agree on such a framework," the statement said. "The meeting will also be an opportunity to demonstrate greater solidarity and shared responsibility with countries which host the vast majority of refugees." Endi

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