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UN Chief: Saving Migrants’ Lives Must Be Top Priority

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, June 23, 2015.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on European parliamentarians to advocate for the protection of people who risk their lives to escape conflicts, persecution and poverty in hot spots of the world.

Addressing the 47-nation Council of Europe Tuesday in Strasbourg, France, Ban expressed alarm at “the plight of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, especially in the Mediterranean and Andaman Seas, as well as the Bay of Bengal.”

"I call on you to advocate for the protection and rights of people who flee conflict, persecution, entrenched poverty or lack of access to decent work,” said Ban. “We have a responsibility, a common responsibility to act before more lives are lost. That is why Europe needs safer, regular and orderly channels for migration and mobility."

Many people are trying to leave the Middle East, Africa and Asia for a better life in European countries, making the dangerous crossing often on unsafe vessels "to migrate to safer shores," Ban said.

According to statistics from the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, about 1,800 migrants have vanished in the Mediterranean Sea this year. Some 51,000 have reached Europe by sea, 30,500 of them via Italy.

VOA's Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

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