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Corfu cargo ship seized by illegal immigrants

Corfu cargo ship seized by illegal immigrants - latest
By Harriet Alexander 30 Dec 2014 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/greece/11317444/Corfu-c...

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15.50 Elsewhere in Europe, Spanish police have said that more than 100 migrants on Tuesday managed to scale the six-metre fence surrounding the Spanish exclave of Melilla to enter the territory, while around 40 remained perched on the barrier.

Some 200 people tried to storm into the territory that lies in northern Morocco - which together with the nearby exclave of Ceuta have Europe's only land borders with Africa - in the early morning hours, Melilla police said in a statement.

The flow of migrants hoping to reach Europe via Ceuta and Melilla has swelled this year by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq as well as unrest in parts of north Africa, officials say.

The number of undocumented migrants entering Melilla had surged to more than 4,600 in early December, compared with 3,000 for the whole of 2013, Spain's interior minister said on December 10.

15.48 The ship which issued the distress call, the Blue Sky.

15.40 Some sources in Greece have told The Telegraph that they believe the fate of the Blue Sky could mirror that of a ship found off Crete on November 26.

This is how the Greek Reporter covered that story:

Early yesterday morning, the ship was detected at 60-70 nautical miles south-east of Ierapetra on the island of Crete. The first snapshots taken by the Greek authorities clearly showed over 700 illegal immigrants on board, with several armed men among them.

According to military sources, the armed men among the immigrants are the traffickers, but it is not yet clear how strong the group is and what kinds of weapons they hold.

The passengers’ initial demand was to be towed to Spanish shores, but since adverse atmospheric conditions – the north/north-westerly winds of Beaufort force 8 and waves of up to 3 metres – made this impossible, they agreed to be towed to Crete. Sizeable Greek Navy forces have been concentrated in the waters around Ierapetra.

15.29 This update is just in from the Telegraph’s Menelaos Tzafalias in Athens

Around four hours ago, a call from on board the Moldovan flagged ship Blue Sky was made to the Europe-wide 112 emergency telephone number and the person making the call (whose identity is unknown) said that there were 700 migrants on board the ship and that the also were armed people.

Greek government sources said that the ship is currently north of the island of Corfu about 3.5 nautical miles west of Othonoi island, meaning it is still in Greek territorial waters. Greek authorities still are investigating the incident.

Greek officials have noted that in a recent case where a ship carrying migrants was rescued south of the island if Crete, a similar call was made but it proved there were no armed men on board that ship and that the number of migrants turned out to be much fewer than initially reported.

15.04 Confusing reports about what is going on with Blue Sky MV.

Has it been commandeered? Or is it suffering from technical difficulties? And are there hundreds of migrants on board?

The Greek authorities evidently think it's significant, as they are marshalling their special forces.