Herded like cattle into the rusty hull of an ageing merchant vessel, these are the desperate migrants abandonedby people traffickers to drift helplessly at sea. The grainy photo – taken on board freighter Blue Sky M – reveals how 796 migrants including women and children were packed together in squalor on the freezing metal floor. It was taken by a 35-year-old Syrian, who claims he paid almost £11,000 for himself and his pregnant wife to make the journey. And on board a second so-called ghost ship, authorities this week found 359 people shivering and starving who had been crammed into freezing livestock holds on a 50-year-old freighter called Ezadeen.
With nowhere to sit or sleep, the migrants were forced to squeeze between metal bars designed to contain cattle and sheep and huddle together in the filthy pens. The passengers, including 54 women – several of whom were pregnant – and 74 children, eight of whom were unaccompanied, endured a miserable ten-day voyage before they were rescued on Friday night. They ran out of food, drink and fuel after five days, when the smugglers apparently locked them in the decaying vessel and escaped on a lifeboat.
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