A second ‘ghost ship’ crammed with 450 migrants and left drifting after abandoned by its crew has reached the Southern coast of Italy.
The Ezadeen, a vessel flying an ensign from Sierra Leone, docked in the port of Corigliano Calabro around 2300hrs on Friday after an operation by the Italian navy to stop a significant loss of life, according to the Telegraph.
Six coastguard officers were lowered from a helicopter onto the deck of the ship to take control of the abandoned vessel whose crew had fled the craft to avoid charges of people trafficking and facilitating illegal migration. It was then towed to the Italian port where the human cargo could apply for asylum.
Italian media reported that most of the 450 passengers were from Syria where millions have fled the war torn country, the majority aiming for Southern European countries where they can then pass through into the other Schengen Area countries without being checked. Thousands make for the port City of Calais for the final destination of the UK.
It is the second such ghost ship in recent days which the Italian authorities have had to struggle with as record migrants risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean which the UN called the ‘deadliest’ body of water.
The new strategy by those involved in the illegal trade seems to be to cram as many people onto a ship – often not sea worthy and not designed for the number it makes on its final planned voyage, before they abandon it to drift across into European territorial waters.
The Blue Sky M was reported to have made a distress call before it turned sharply away from its route from Turkey to Croatia around the waters of Corfu, with the Italian and Greek coastguards responding and tailing the vessel. After making contact, they were told the passengers were without food, water or blankets.
And last week, another crew brought the burned-out ferry Norman Atlantic into the Italian port of Brindisi, six days after a fire forced a rescue mission for the 477 survivors.
The vessel which was carrying livestock had been en route from Famuguasta in Turkish-controlled Cyprus to the French Southerly port of Sete but had first stopped at the Syrian port of Tartus, according to a website monitoring global shipping routes.
It was reportedly moving at seven knots when it was spotted by a coastguard plane 80 miles offshore, shortly after nightfall.
Captain Filippo Marini, an Italian navy spokesman, said a woman refugee on board had operated the ship’s radio and told coastguards that the crew had jumped ship.
“We are alone, there is no one, help us!” the woman cried, he said.
The Italian mission asked for assistance from an Icelandic patrol boat which was in the area on a Frontex mission, the EU’s border agency which Southern European countries have insisted take a greater role in controlling the unprecedented numbers fleeing civil wars or looking for an easier life in a Western country.
The crew from the Tyr were initially unable to board due to rough weather conditions but five were eventually winched onto the aged vessel to help care for passengers until the Italian coast guard could arrive.
“The migrants aboard were visibly distressed but overall in good medical condition. They have been provided with food, water and basic medical assistance,” a Frontex statement said on Friday.