A new twist on the tragic saga of Europe’s unfolding migrant crisis: ‘ghost’ ships, or ships abandoned by its crew while hundreds of desperate migrants are left aboard. Moldovan-flagged cargo ship Blue Sky M was abandoned by its crew in the Adriatic Sea and found with 970 people on board, many of them Syrian migrants; and Sierra Leone-flagged merchant ship Ezadeen was found with 450 refugees near the Italian coast. Kemplon Engineering reports on what may be a horrifying new trend in human trafficking.
Europe’s Migrant Crisis
Over the last 14 months, over 170,000 migrants from the Middle East and Africa have crossed the Mediterranean and into Italy. Thousands more had perished at sea, having taken off on overweight and/or barely-seaworthy vessels in a desperate bid for a better life in Europe. Many of these irregular migrants are trying to escape poverty, while others—such as those from Syria—are fleeing from war.
The use of cargo ships is a fairly new “trend” in trafficking, a variation from the dinghies and fishing boats used in the past. According to a representative from Frontex, the border control agency of the EU, there have been about 10 such ships since late last fall. The modus is said to involve the acquisition of a decommissioned ship, filling it with migrants (those found in Blue Sky M reportedly paid about $6,000 each, though estimates vary), and abandoning it at sea and advising passengers to contact rescue services. Aside from the larger numbers of migrants that can be accommodated, the use of such vessels can also allow human traffickers to operate in the winter season, when they used to be limited to working during warmer months and in calmer waters.
The worrying trend is a dangerous new menace, as the abandoned ships could run aground and lead to consequences that could harm the migrants aboard as well as damage other vessels or the coast.
The migrant crisis is becoming more and more overwhelming. The number of people fleeing poverty and war are staggering and the countries rescuing them and taking them in are financially burdened—all while traffickers make millions in a big, international operation.
We at Kemplon Engineering believe that if the concerned governments work together, long-term and sustainable solutions may be crafted to protect both desperate migrants and their countries of destination. The situation clearly cannot continue as it is.
Our world’s waters have always played witness humanity’s ingenuity and resilience—it has seen the heights of technology and skill, of diplomacy and commerce. It has also, unfortunately, seen war, piracy and crime. It is our sincere hope that this latest trend in trafficking will bring out the best in us, of our compassion for each other and our ability to come together and find lasting solutions.
^ “Italy’s Second Ghost Ship Prompts EU Plan.” Maritime Executive, 03 Jan 2015. Web. 06 Jan 2015. http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/italys-second-ghost-ship-prompts-eu-plan
^ “Italy’s second ‘ghost ship’ rescue prompts EU pledge to fight smugglers.” ABC.net.au, 04 Jan 2015. Web. 06 Jan 2015. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-04/italys-second-ghost-ship-rescue-prompts-eu-pledge/5999122
^ Squires, Nick. “Italy finds second ‘ghost ship’ with no crew but 450 migrants.” The Telegraph, 02 Jan 2015. Web. 06 Jan 2015. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/11322289/Italy-finds-second-ghost-ship-with-no-crew-but-450-migrants.html
^ “Update: Almost 1,000 Migrants on Packed Cargo Ship.” Maritime Executive, 31 Dec 2014. Web. 06 Jan 2015. http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/update-four-migrants-found-dead-on-packed-cargo-ship
^ Wilkinson, Ben and Daniel Miller. “Rescuers reach second migrant ‘ghost ship’ on collision course with Italy: Stricken vessel abandoned by smugglers with 450 people on board is brought under tow.” Mail Online, 02 Jan 2015. Web. 06 Jan 2015. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2893970/Now-SECOND-migrant-ghost-ship-collision-course-Italy.html