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Council of Europe expert says governments who shirked responsibility to save 2011 boat must face up to their guilt.
12 July 2012, 12:00am
"Governments in Europe, and not only in the countries on the southern shores of Europe, must react, and take an equal share in the protection of asylum seekers arriving from Africa," said Tineke Strik, author of the report on 'Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: Who is responsible?'
An independent forensic analysis into the death of the migrants in 2011 had concluded the refugees were abandoned by Maltese and Tunisian fishermen, the Italian and Maltese armed forces, as well as one patrol aircraft, one helicopter, and a military ship whose identities remain unknown.
The report said that fishermen, the Maltese and Italian rescue missions, and Nato had been informed of the distress signal of 72 migrants who had fled Tripoli on 27 March, 2011; but did not intervene in a way that could have averted their tragic fate.
Instead the migrants' vessel drifted slowly for 14 days in what was then one of the most surveilled maritime areas in the world, populated by at least 38 naval assets.
"Yet again, a dinghy with 55 people on board drifted for 15 days on the Mediterranean. This time, only one person survived. When will this ever end?" Strik said of the most recent reported deaths.
"It is still not safe in Libya and the boats will continue to arrive. Europe knows that. I had hoped my report on the 'left-to-die boat' would serve as an eye-opener to prevent such tragedies happening time and time again. States must never hesitate to undertake immediate action to rescue people, even if they think someone else should be responsible: every minute counts."
Strik said it is all the more important that the resolution adopted by the Assembly in April this year is implemented and that the remaining questions are answered by NATO and by European governments."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that more than 170 people have lost their lives this year attempting to reach Italy by sea. Over 1 300 have arrived from Libya to Italy, and over 1,000 to Malta.
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