New Strategy For Smugglers of Libyan War Refugees–Abandon Ship In Sight Of Italy

EU vows to fight migrant 'ghost ship' tactic
The EU has vowed to fight people smugglers’ new tactic of abandoning “ghost ships” full of migrants off European coasts. Nunzio Giove/AFP

EU vows to fight migrant ‘ghost ship’ tactic

THE LOCAL ITalian

Published: 02 Jan 2015

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said it was “following closely the events surrounding” the crewless Ezadeen merchant ship which had drifted toward Italy’s southern shores with 450 migrants aboard before Italian sailors took control of it on Friday.

It was the second incident in two days after the Blue Sky M ship was abandoned Wednesday by smugglers who set it on autopilot toward Italy’s rocky shores with nearly 800 migrants aboard.

“The rescues of the Blue Sky M two days ago and of the Ezadeen show that smugglers are finding new ways to enter EU territory,” a commission spokesperson told AFP.

“To prevent such events and to protect the lives of migrants, fighting smuggling will continue to be a priority under the commission’s agenda for comprehensive migration in 2015,” the spokesperson said.

Responsibility for patrolling Europe’s southern shores in theory lies with Triton, a multinational operation run by the European borders agency Frontex.

But in practice the Italian navy has continued to carry out most of the rescues despite officially scaling back its own Mare Nostrum operation at the end of October, after failing to persuade other EU governments to help fund it.

The migrant boat dramas come after a record year for people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia attempting to reach Europe by sea.

More than 170,000 people have been rescued by Italy in the last 14 months and hundreds, possibly thousands, have perished trying to make the crossing.

They are almost invariably under the control of ruthless traffickers who earn thousands of dollars for every person they put to sea, mainly from lawless Libya and other departure points in North Africa.

Bahrain Explodes In Protests After Opposition Leader Arrested

Bahrain forces attack protesting worshipers in Manama

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Bahraini security forces have attacked a group of worshipers outside a mosque in the capital, Manama, amid rising tensions over the recent arrest of a top Shia opposition leader in the kingdom, Press TV reported.

According to reports, the Bahraini worshipers were holding a protest rally after the evening prayers on Thursday to voice their anger at the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman, the head of the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society.

However, regime forces intervened with tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the gathering. Dozens of worshipers were also arrested in the crackdown.

Tensions have been running high in Bahrain since Sheikh Salman was taken into custody on December 28. The opposition leader was remanded in custody on Tuesday for a week for further questioning.

Al-Wefaq has described any move against Salman as serious and uncalculated adventurism, which would complicate the political and security landscape in the Persian Gulf country.

On December 30, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on the Manama regime to release Sheikh Salman.

The European Union has also warned that the arrest of the al-Wefaq leader “carries the risk of jeopardizing an already difficult political and security situation.”

Bahrain has been witnessing almost daily protests against the Al Khalifa dynasty since early 2011, when an uprising began in the kingdom. Since then, thousands of protesters have held numerous rallies in the streets of Bahrain, calling on the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.