Syrian migrant became ‘captain’ of ‘ghost ship’

The man who piloted nearly 770 illegal Syrian migrants aboard the Blue Sky M cargo ship towards Italy has described how he became the “captain” of the human trafficking vessel, according to Italian media.

Sarkas Rani, a 36-year-old Syrian was quoted on Sunday by Italian daily La Repubblica as saying he was contacted in Turkey by human traffickers who had posted notices on Facebook offering clandestine passage to Europe for $5,000 for individuals, or $4,500 per person in groups of 25 or more.

“They promised me $15,000 and the possibility of sending my entire family over,” Rani was quoted as saying by La Repubblica, which used transcripts of a police interrogation after the Syrian was arrested December 31 in the Italian port of Gallipoli.

The Blue Sky M was intercepted Wednesday by Italian authorities as it was locked on a course towards Italy’s coast with 768 migrants aboard.

According to La Repubblica, Rani acknowledged having left the bridge to hide among the migrant passengers once he had set the ship’s autopilot toward Italy’s southern shore.

Italian naval officers later boarded the Moldovan-registered Blue Sky M just five miles (eight kilometres) before it would have run aground in what would have likely been a violent crash…