The money-making machine behind Mediterranean people smuggling

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The discovery last week of two abandoned cargo ships crammed with clandestine migrants in the Mediterranean Sea has underlined a cynical change of tactics by people traffickers. Though buying the massive vessels costs money, the traffickers still stand to make millions from preying on the desire of refugees to flee war-torn Syria or the Horn of Africa for a better life in Europe. Mediapart has been reporting regularly on the plight of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean and has highlighted the new tactics being used by traffickers. Here Carine Fouteau looks at the background to people smuggling and describes just how traffickers exploit the needy – including wealthier middle class Syrians desperate to escape the ongoing war in their country.

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It has become the latest technique used by people traffickers to transport desperate migrants across the Mediterranean Sea and into Europe; cramming them into old rusting cargo ships and leaving them to their fate before the crew members risk getting caught. Early last week the Moldova-registered cargo vessel Blue Sky M was apparently abandoned by its crew and left to its fate in the Aegean Sea. On board Italian coastguards found some 800 Syrian and Kurdish migrants and refugees, left without supplies, water or shelter.