Syrian migrants say they were abandoned by hooded smugglers

Syrian migrants told Italian officials, smugglers wearing hoods abandoned them in choppy Mediterranean waters. At the end of a three-day voyage the migrants were towed to port by an Icelandic coast guard ship.

Syrian migrants told Italian investigators Saturday that their smugglers wore hoods to avoid identification before putting their cargo ship on automatic pilot and abandoning it in choppy Mediterranean waters.

Fleeing their homeland's war, 365 Syrians disembarked hours earlier from the Ezadeen at Corigliano Calabro, in Calabria, the end of a three-day voyage from Turkey.

The cargo vessel had been towed to port by an Icelandic coast guard ship. Italian coast guard officials were themselves lowered by helicopter in strong winds onto the unmanned bridge to take control after a migrant told them Thursday they had been abandoned.

Before the ship's arrival, coast guard officials estimated there were between 400 and 450 passengers.

But a local Prefect's Office official, Emanuela Greco, said the actual count was 359: 255 men, 42 women and 62 children, eight of them unaccompanied.

She told The Associated Press police questioned and checked the documents of each arrival, but found no suspected smugglers mingled among them. The Syrians were taken to shelters around Italy where they can apply for asylum.

Sometimes, smugglers have tried to blend in with the masses of migrants who step onto Italian soil after sea rescues.

Cosenza Police Chief Luigi Liguori told reporters that migrants said the smugglers were hooded whenever they saw them.

Authorities said the migrants recounted that they boarded the Sierra-Leone-flagged Ezadeen on Dec. 31 in Turkey after a flight from Lebanon, a country which borders Syria.

It was unclear which Turkish port was the departure point. The Ezadeen's data recorder might reveal its exact route. Castrovillari Prosecutor Franco Giacomantonio told Sky TG24TV authorities would examine the sequestered recorder.

Italian authorities are worried that smugglers might have a new and particularly dangerous strategy. The Ezadeen was the second cargo ship in two days to be abandoned on automatic pilot, programmed to steam ahead and crash into Italy's southern coast with hundreds of helpless passengers.

It's possible that human traffickers might have calculated that what each migrant pays for the risky, uncomfortable voyage makes it worth ditching old cargo ships in a bid to escape capture.

The Syrians told police they paid from $4,000 to $8,000 apiece (5,000-9,600 euros) to reach Europe.

Describing those who wearily disembarked from the Ezadeen, Greco said: "These are people of a certain economic means. They were well dressed."

The Ezadeen was formerly used to transport animals, she noted. "These poor people were crowded together, down in the ship, in the dark," because at some point the electricity went out, she said.

"The children never cried" after disembarking, Greco recalled. "I had the impression all the people were very dignified, with a certain pride."

Annalisa Camilli contributed to this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Syrian migrants say they were abandoned by hooded smugglers
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today