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EU wants Turkey’s explanation on smuggling of migrants in cargo ships

 Hundreds of migrants fleeing Syria arrive at Corigliano harbour, Italy, on 2 January. Photograph: Alfonso di Vincenzo/AFP/Getty Images

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

BRUSSELS — 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 sent the ships speeding towards the Italian coast with no one at the helm.

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.”


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