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Med migrant vessel incidents prompt EU Triton fears

Med migrant vessel incidents prompt EU Triton fears
The Mediterranean became a hotspot for incidents involving migrant ships over the holiday period with two abandoned vessels, Blue Sky M and Ezadeen, leaving over 1,370 immigrants stranded off Italy.

Moldovan-flagged Blue Sky M, estimated to be carrying around 970, was intercepted en-route from Corfu to southern Italy when it was boarded by the Italian Coast Guard following reports of armed men aboard. Once found to have been abandoned on autopilot by crew, the vessel was towed to the port of Gallipoli on Wednesday.

Meanwhile a second ship, 50-year old livestock carrier Ezadeen, was found abandoned with at least 400 migrants and no crew on board approximately 65km off southern Italy, having lost power in rough seas. The vessel was intercepted by the Icelandic Coastguard's ICGV Tyr, which was said to have been involved in four similar rescues since deployment in the Med at the beginning of December.

Commenting on the Blue Sky M incident, IMO secretary general Koji Sekimuzu indicated: “The international community must take action now to address the people-smugglers that are behind this sort of migration and consider ways to prevent similar incidents of sending hundreds of migrants on unlawful and unregulated sea passages."

The news follows the stepping down of the EU Mare Nostrum Search and Rescue (SaR) agreement in favour of the cut-budget EU Frontex operation “Triton”  focused on border control, which “Scares no-one”, according to the chairman of the European Parliament Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee mep Claude Moraes, quoted by the BBC.

Sekimizu continued: “As I declared at the High Level Dialogue organised by the UN High Commission for Refugees in December, I am convening an inter-agency meeting at IMO Headquarters in March to address smugglers behind maritime migrants and consider effective measures to prevent migrants taking unlawful and unregulated sea passages. The international community must take action to address maritime migration in the 21st century."