Squalid conditions on board Syrian migrant boat pictured

MILAN, ITALY- Packed in like cattle and huddled under blankets on the cold, bare floor, this is the scene aboard the Moldovan-flagged Blue Sky M cargo ship which people traffickers left drifting towards the Italian coast last week with 768 desperate Syrian migrants aboard.
The images were captured by a 30-year-old Syrian woman who was travelling with her parents and two younger sisters.

They show men, women and children lying head-to-toe in the limited space in the rusting ships's hull with others sat on ledges around the edge.
The woman, who is also seven months pregnant, embarked on the perilous journey in a bid to join her husband who had made the same voyage three weeks earlier.
But after she and her fellow migrants handed over thousands of dollars to people traffickers, the "crew" of the ageing vessel abandoned them at sea.
The crewless vessel was intercepted on December 31 by Italian authorities as -- locked on autopilot -- it headed towards the Italian coast.
It had earlier departed from the Turkish port of Mersin, close to the Syrian border. The Syrian man who had piloted the migrants says the Turkish authorities failed to undertake any inspection of the Blue Sky M before it went out to sea.
Italian naval officers boarded the vessel just five miles (eight kilometres) before it would have run aground in what would have likely been a violent crash into rocks.
Two days later, another cargo ship also abandoned by its crew was intercepted by the Italian navy and towed to port with 450 migrants on board.

Tuesday, January 6th 2015

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