Europe News

Italy Rescues Second ‘Ghost Ship’ With 450 Migrants And No Crew


For the second time in just three days, Italian authorities on Friday rushed to rescue hundreds of migrants from an aging freighter loaded with migrants that traffickers steered toward Italy and abandoned.

The ship, carrying 450 migrants, was abandoned, leaving it moving through the cold waters at top speed with no one in control as it headed for the coastline. Rescuers boarded the ship after it ran out of fuel and came to a stop, and by afternoon it was towed to shore, according to the New York Times.

[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Izabella Cooper” author_title=”Spokesperson for Frontex, the EU’s border control agency”]

What we are currently witnessing is the opening of a new migratory route where smugglers buy old scrap cargo vessels, departing from Turkey. This route is longer and the fees charged by the smugglers about three times higher than the fee charged by smugglers from Libya.


Amid the stormy winter weather, six Italian coast guard officers were lowered onto the deck of the Ezadeen from a helicopter after the merchant ship was abandoned. The 240-foot vessel, originally designed to transport livestock, was flying the flag of Sierra Leone but registered to a Lebanese company. The migrants on board are believed to be Syrians, and it’s believed Ezadeen began in the Syrian port city of Tartus, according to the Telegraph.

The alarm to the Italian coast guard was raised in a distress call from one of the migrants on the Ezadeen who told officials, “We’re without crew, we’re heading toward the Italian coast and we have no one to steer,” according to the BBC.

More than 170,000 migrants and refugees have reached Italy in the last 14 months by crossing the Mediterranean. Smugglers are increasingly using larger, decommissioned cargo ships that are abandoned at sea.

The discovery was very similar to the interception on Wednesday of another abandoned ship, the Blue Sky M, which had 970 refugees but no crew. That ship was set on auto-pilot before the Italian coast guard were able to take control and deliver it to Gallipoli. The traffickers purchased the decommissioned ship and charged the Turkish refugees $6,000 each, which is about triple what migrants usually pay to cross from North Africa into Italy.

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