Just three days after taking control of a Moldovan-registered freighter bearing over 700 refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war, Italian authorities have once again captured another ship ferrying 450 immigrants into Italy – but the irony of this is that the crews of both ships had abandoned the ships and their human cargo after setting their course toward Italy.
The Moldovan-registered ship that was seized some three days ago is named Blue Sky M – but detecting that its crew officers had abandoned ship and left the migrants to their own luck on the high seas, Italian officers used helicopters to gain access into the ship and then taken navigational control to prevent the vessel from crashing into the rocky coastline.
This latest ship that was possessed by Italian authorities is known as Ezadeen, a 50-year old livestock carrier that sailed under a Sierra Leonean flag. Some analysts and eye-witnesses believe the ship must have run out of fuel and food supplies – endangering the lives of pregnant women and children who were abandoned in the ship as it headed for the Italian coast where it would have crashed and resulted in loss of lives if Italian officers had not assumed control and towed it in.
“When we hailed the ship to ask about its status, a migrant woman responded, saying, ‘We are alone, and we have no one to help us,’ ” said Commander Filippo Marini, an Italian Coast Guard spokesman. And because the rough seas and unfavorable weather made accessing the ship to rescue its abandoned passengers impossible, an Italian helicopter was called in to deliver rescuers. “Because of the difficult weather conditions, the ship can only be boarded from the air,” the Italian Air Force said in a statement.
The Icelandic Coast Guard was able to take possession of the ship after several hours of effort in rough seas, and then towed the Ezadeen ship to safe coasts. Traffickers are now believed to have changed tactics in ferrying migrants in the Mediterranean, using larger vessels instead of the little boats they used before.
According to William Spindler, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency, “We are aware of at least four incidents in the last two months where people smugglers cram hundreds of migrants and refugees in big cargo boats and then send them uncrewed in the direction of Italy. In the past they did exactly the same thing with smaller vessels like fishing vessels and dinghies,” he told BBC radio. “But it seems now they are going for bigger boats like cargo boasts,” and “the money involved is huge.”
Most of the passengers were migrants and refugees fleeing war zones, repressive governments, and chaos back at home in Cyprus, Syria, and Turkey among others – and since unscrupulous traffickers were ready to ferry them across the Mediterranean to Italy and southern France, these migrants pay thousands of dollars only to be abandoned at sea after the ship had been set on a straight course toward their final destinations.