Ship carrying 700 migrants docks in Italian port

The cargo ship's crew had reportedly abandoned the ship, leaving it to head directly towards the Italian coast on autopilot. 

The Blue Sky M cargo ship.
The Blue Sky M cargo ship.

A cargo ship reportedly carrying around 700 irregular immigrants has docked in the Italian port of Gallipoli after Italy had taken control of the ship while it was at sea.

Syrians and Kurds are said to be among those aboard the ship, possibly fleeing from the Middle East crisis where the Islamic State group has seized swathes of territory. The Blue Sky M ship, listed as a general cargo ship flying under the Moldovan flag, had apparently been abandoned by its crew and left to head directly towards the Italian coast on autopilot.

Italian coast guard spokesman Filippo Marini said that Italy had avoided a disaster by interrupting a programmed route that would have had the cargo ship crash into the shore, according to the AP news agency.

The ship was reportedly heading for the port of Rijeka in Croatia from Turkey. According to tracking website MarineTraffic, it had abruptly changed direction south of Othonoi on Tuesday morning and started heading west towards Italy.

The ship had sent a distress call to Greek emergency services while it was near the shore of Corfu, prompting the Greek navy to send a helicopter and a warship.

Italy has recently seen a surge in irregular immigrants – the majority of whom hail from the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

Although the most common sea route for these immigrants is from Libya, this ship is said to have started its voyage in Turkey.

Human traffickers who organise the migrant crossings often abandon the ships at sea to avoid arrest.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, has warned that his agency will struggle to deal with a staggering escalation of humanitarian needs across the globe in 2015, and that his organisation might not be able to deliver even the minimum level of assistance needed for many refugees to survive.


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