Ships packed with refugees are abandoned and left to drift to their fate off the coast of Europe.

Migrants making the journey by sea to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa are facing alarming new dangers.

Suspected traffickers are being accused of abandoning ships in rough seas.

The European Union's border control agency, Frontex, has reported six such incidents since the beginning of December. The agency took the lead in search and rescue missions from Italy in November.

In one of the latest incident, the Blue Sky M cargo ship, under a Moldovan flag, was abandoned by its crew with almost 1,000 people on board.

The rudder was reportedly jammed, with the packed vessel set on a collision-course with the Italian shore.

In another development, the Icelandic coastguard, operating as part of Frontex's Operation Triton, rescued a one-time livestock freighter carrying 450 migrants.

The Ezadeen had lost power off the southeast of Italy, with no sign of the crew.

There has been a surge in migrants heading for Europe in the past year, escaping wars in Iraq and Syria, chaos in Libya and poverty and unrest in the Horn of Africa and West Africa.

Increasingly larger ships are being used and what was a seasonal migration has become a year-round pursuit.

So are criminal gangs placing migrants in ever greater danger? And are authorities simply reacting to a problem which has its routes far from their shores?

Presenter:

David Foster

Guests:

Joel Millman - spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration.

Ewa Moncure - representing Frontex, the European Union's border control agency.

William Spindler – spokesman for UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

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Source: Al Jazeera