06 Jan 2015
CORIGLIANO CALABRO, Italy — A cargo ship abandoned by its crew with 359 Syrian refugees on board was towed ashore today in Italy in the second such rescue this week, prompting calls for stronger EU action in light of new tactics by human traffickers. The Ezadeen, a Sierra-Leone-flagged vessel that had set sail from Turkey, docked in a southern Italian port. The passengers, including 62 minors, were in good condition and were being transferred to immigration centers and foster homes across Italy, coast guard and police officials said. The decrepit vessel, licensed only to carry livestock, was strewn with steel containers, broken chairs, piles of garbage bags, empty gasoline tanks and scattered clothes and belongings. On Wednesday, about 800 mostly Syrian migrants were rescued from another “ghost ship”, the Moldovan-flagged Blue Sky M. It, too, was abandoned at sea, highlighting a new ploy by traffickers who make money promising refugees a transfer to Europe. Civil war in Syria swelled the number of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean last year, with about 160,000 seaborne migrants arriving in Italy as of the end of November. Thousands of others drowned. “Smugglers are finding new routes to Europe and are employing new methods in order to exploit desperate people,” said Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration. “These events underscore the need for decisive and coordinated EU-wide action.” He said the European Union is preparing a new migration plan to be presented “in due course” that would make the fight against smugglers a priority. But efforts have been hampered by the sheer weight of migrant numbers, the cost of sea patrols, and arguments within the EU over how to share the burden. Italy recently phased out its expensive search-and-rescue operation on the Mediterranean. It was replaced by a smaller EU joint mission, but Italian politicians and U.N. officials say further efforts are needed. “Europe needs to wake up and make trafficking a priority,” said Sergio Divina, a politician from the anti-immigration Northern League party. The rescue began yesterday when a coast guard helicopter spotted the ship drifting in rough seas about 40 miles from Italy’s southern coast.