EU wants explanation from Turkey over migrant cargo ships

The European Union urged Turkish authorities to clarify how traffickers managed to take cargo ships carrying hundreds of migrants out of country

Migrants await rescue aboard the Ezadeen, a livestock vessel that was abandoned by its crew off the Italian coast
Migrants await rescue aboard the Ezadeen, a livestock vessel that was abandoned by its crew off the Italian coast

The European Union wants Turkey to explain how human traffickers could have taken two cargo ships filled with migrants out of the country and towards the EU without the authorities noticing.

Natasha Bertaud, spokeswoman for the European commission, said on Tuesday, “Given what has happened in recent days with the two ships, we wanted to clarify things with the Turkish authorities.”

The cargo ships were picked up in the Mediterranean last week with more than 1,000 migrants aboard, many of them fleeing Syria. The smugglers had locked up the migrants and set the ships on a course to the Italian coast before abandoning the vessels.

Bertaud said contacts with Turkey are happening at a “political and technical level”.

She said, “It’s always the same area the cargo ships are leaving from so there is a problem that has to be resolved there.”

Turkey’s foreign ministry did not have an immediate response.

The EU’s border agency, Frontex, says the smugglers are probably business opportunists operating out of south-east Turkey and not part of any larger human trafficking network.

Spokeswoman Izabella Cooper said, “There is no evidence of these networks being connected. This might just be a new business opportunity that someone has picked up in Turkey.”

Cooper said Islamic extremists in Libya are making life dangerous for smugglers and migrants alike. New visa requirements in Algeria for Syrians could also be forcing those fleeing the conflict there to look for escape routes closer to home.

More in World