Dutch MP to investigate Mediterranean sea deaths

Council of Europe investigating claims that national coastguards ignored distress calls | Cecilia Malmström accuses EU govts of allowing xenophobic sentiments

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has launched an inquiry into who is responsible for the disappearance and death of more than 1,000 asylum seekers in the Mediterranean since January 2011 while trying to reach European soil from North Africa.

Following a request for an inquiry signed by 34 members of the Assembly – which groups MPs from the national parliaments of member states of the Council of Europe – PACE’s Migration Committee yesterday appointed Dutch Green MP Tineke Strik to prepare a report on “Lives lost in the Mediterranean sea: who is responsible?”.

“There have been allegations that migrants and refugees are dying after their appeals for rescue have been ignored,” Strik said. “Such a grave allegation must be urgently investigated.”

“I intend to look into the manner in which these boats are intercepted – or not – by the different national coastguards, the EU’s border agency FRONTEX, or even military vessels. I also intend to speak to witnesses directly involved in reported incidents, and put questions to national authorities, the UNHCR, FRONTEX and NATO, among others.”

On 8 May, the Guardian newspaper reported that 61 boat people escaping from Libya had died after their appeals for rescue had been ignored by armed forces operating in the Mediterranean. The following day PACE President Mevlüt Çavusoglu called for “an immediate and comprehensive enquiry” into the incident.

Reportedly, the boat had been left to drift in the Mediterranean for 16 days, and a call from the boat to the Italian coastguard and a military helicopter and NATO warship was ignored because no rescue effort was attempted. By the time the vessel drifted ashore at Zlitan, Libya, on 10 April, all but 11 passengers were dead, and another died after being imprisoned by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, the country’s leader.

A spokesman for the Italian coastguard said they had advised Malta that the vessel was heading towards their search and rescue zone, and issued an alert telling vessels to look out for the boat, "obliging them to attempt a rescue." The Maltese authorities denied they had had any involvement with the boat.

The migrants used a satellite phone to call Fr Moses Zerai, an Eritrean priest in Rome who runs a refugee rights organisation, who then alerted the Italian coastguard. The story is corroborated by another story carried recently by MaltaToday on April 17 when a boat laden with 171 african refugees fleeing Libya and rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta was denied assistance by NATO. One woman died on board and was later buried in Malta.

Malmström criticism

The EU’s Commissioner for home affairs Cecilia Malmström yesterday accused EU governments of allowing xenophobic sentiments in Europe to dictate immigration policy and failing to protect refugees from North Africa.

On the eve of an EU summit in Brussels where leaders of the bloc’s 27 governments will discuss immigration, Cecilia Malmström urged them to make more efforts to resettle people fleeing turmoil and to improve Europe’s asylum provisions.

“In recent years, we have witnessed growing support for populist movements in the EU. In my areas of responsibility – asylum, migration, integration and border cooperation – I can see that xenophobia is on the rise,” she said in a statement.

France and Italy have called for greater freedom to reintroduce borders within the EU, a move that would make it easier to block migrants from slipping into European countries. EU leaders are expected at this week’s summit to clear the way for such measures.

EU governments are set to launch talks with North African states on long-term policy, attempting to agree how countries such as Tunisia and Egypt might curb irregular migration and in return secure better access to jobs in the EU for legal workers and other travellers.

But Malmström said such plans were not enough and told the bloc’s governments to extend more help to the region. “Political leaders all over Europe have been quick to condemn violence ... and to congratulate our Northern African neighbours in their fight for democracy and freedom,” she said,

“But when it comes to dealing with the consequences of these developments, and particularly when it comes to dealing with the men, women and children coming to Europe for protection or in search of a better life, European leaders have not been as supportive,” she said.

Malmström has so far failed to convince EU capitals to take in some 15,000 people who have fled from North Africa. “EU member states altogether have so far committed to give protection to some 800 people,” she said.

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The Dutch should investigate the racism they have in the Netherland not what is happening in the Mediterranean. I say where are the French and British in all this. Why is it that only Italy and Malta are being burdened with the illegal migrants.
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REFUGEES are not ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS-monique Are you aware that the last 10 years we have only had 600 refugees, the rest being illegal immigrants?
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I really hope this Dutch MP evaluates the whole situation rather than just a couple of incidents. Thousands of refugees have been fleeing the North African shores for years, and still EU leaders have not managed to solve this issue once and for all. How many more human lives must be sacrifised!What's even worse - they pretend that a tiny island like Malta is to carry the burden of all these thousands. What a bunch of hypocrits!! They spend more time meeting and discussing the best way forward than actually implementing the actions proposed. After years of tragedies, EU simply tells these refugees; " Risk your lives buy trying to come to Malta or Lampedusa on a small boat... then if we manage to find you, we will throw you in prison for a couple of years"... Is this what EU understands by helping refugees? There is only one solution, i.e. to stop them from leaving the North African shores and help them live a proper life in their country.
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Did he say how much Holland would 'burden share' our problem. Hope that it is more than Ireland's 10 (after we bailed it out).
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While we should always distinguish between refugees and illegal immigrants, we must never forget that Malta was a colony like the birthplace of these illegal immigrants. Why should Malta pay double the price, first as a colony and then as an EU facing illegal immigrant that is clearly the result of post-colonisation problems? http://bitly.com/kIz5OI
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1."They come here and take away our jobs" 2."They come here, don't work and collect social benefits" ...now you've lost me
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPjzfGChGlE&feature=player_embedded
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Monique, the current refugees we are seeing are the same we got in the past 10 year, all sub sahara illegal migrants.
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Investigations are always good. But what investigations tend to do in the EU contents is throw blame on countries who cannot defent themselves. Most EU countries do not want illegal migrants if they can help it, and that is why no one wants burden sharing and burden sharing will not take place as countries still have that sovreign domain. A little more push on too many issue will (and here I don't mean illegal migrants alone) will fracture the EU more than it is. People who pay taxes are tired of having to support the citizens of other nations and that is why many politicians are losing when they run for elections again. We have democracies, but it seems that demoracies only are good when it suits certain people (e.g., divorce issue in Malta is one of them). Why not have a referendum on what Malta should do with illegal migrants. It is after all the taxpayers and the citizens of this nation who elect our politicians who rarely act on what our belies are. So you see, that is why burden sharing does not work, because politicains in other EU countries have a lot of pressure from their constituents. And do y ou blame them. Illegal migrants or migrants come in, and after a while they start demanding all kind of social services llike free housing, medical coverage, free school and welfare/food money and all for free. And many of them have large families on top of that and they stay home living the simple life without paying for it. And of top of that, the money they have left from their unearned money goes to the relatives back home and in many cases their relatives are welcome to join them and and they also start receiving free social benefits like them. What I am saying are facts and everyone knows it. At the end, don't these people have it better than me, the citizen and taxpayer.
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I am TOTALLY AGAINST PEOPLE DYING IN THE DESERT (WHICH IS ALWAYS FORGOTTEN) AND IN THE SEA - be it in the Med, the Gulf of Aden, the strait between Morocco and Spain etc. But there is an interesting aspect in all this mayhem. Malstrom for all her love for immigrants has only one thought in mind - that of bringing immigrants to Europe. WITHOUT any racist or xenophobic aspect my question towards Ms. Malstrom is the following: Why bring them to Europe? As you can very well acknowledge Europe (especially the southern Mediterranean) we are not the land of milk and honey. So my question is - why not try to get not just europe - but the whole international community to act and help these people in THEIR OWN COUNTRY OF ORIGIN??? This will be effective for the following reasons: 1) They won't have to leave their loved ones, their lands and their job (if they would be lucky enough to have one) 2) The brain drain will decrease dramatically - that way you will have a capable people ready to help restructure their country 3) They won't have to face horrible journeys such as the conveniently forgotten desert journey, where there is much exploitation of women especially, and a good number of deaths which no one cares about 4) They won't have to face horrible sea journeys on unworthy boats, resulting more often than not in horrible deaths, making the sea bed a marine cemetery 5) They will not have to pay exorbitant sums of money to human smugglers, who are getting rich by helping to destroy people, and the money they receive will with all probabilities go to terrorism groups like Al Shabab in Somalia thru' the famous Hawala system (Money Laundering) and other terrorist organizations 6) If as was stated some weeks ago in an italian newspaper and in accordance with a reliable report - it looks as if the possibility of infiltrated terrorists on the boats is a reality, this will stop, since if they do come to europe, through resettlement programmes we will be exporting terrorism both to European member states and to the US through the UNHCR resettlement programme. (This is another reality highlighted by the National Terror Alert journal). If these aspects will be taken seriously by all stake holders within the INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY & NOT JUST BY THE EU - perhaps a good number of problems will be solved once and for all.
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REFUGEES are not ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
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Louise may have a point. There are reports of immigrants returning from Tunisia (who had recently signed a repatriation deal with Italy) to try their chance to reach Europe. Not to forget also that the illegal immigration phenomenon from Libya is a problem that existed long before this war occurred. One cannot generalize though. There are immigrants who were caught in no man's land and had to flee from Libya by boat.
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@monique - agree with you. Ms Louis Vella is an extremist and her comment shows it.
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@Louise Vella; Your comment is truly one of the most ignorant ever. It is obvious that you spent your life either living under a rock or never moved an inch out of your personal comfort zone. That would explain the narrow mind of yours. "The fourth responsible are the illegal immigrants themselves who throw caution to the wind and jump on any boat, whether they can swim or not."... Maybe because there is war, murder, death waiting in Lybia and they have nothing to lose?
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So the EU can intervene whenever an immigrant is not saved but they cannot intervene whenever a country hides behind the Dublin 2 treaty to keep immigrants away from his country? I am against people dying at sea but its pretty evident what the EU has in mind ie achieve Sainthood on other people's back.
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They will write a report on “Lives lost in the Mediterranean sea: who is responsible?” I can already give them some hints. Gaddafi publicly threatened to invade Europe with Africans if he were not given huge sums of money. As long as the money flowed in, he stopped the people smugglers from operating. When NATO started attacking Libya, Gaddafi let loose his invasion. The boats started coming again. So the first responsible is the war. The second responsible is Gaddafi. The third responsible are the people smugglers. The fourth responsible are the illegal immigrants themselves who throw caution to the wind and jump on any boat, however unseaworthy, in whatever numbers, and whether they can swim or not.
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Let's hope, that when Tineke Strik seeks to answer the question: “Lives lost in the Mediterranean sea: who is responsible?” - she does not stop at the mechanics of one incident, but rather that the report also explores how the lack of willingness to address the problem by ALL European states, has created pressure which is felt all the way down through Europe - all the way out to the boats patroling the EU's southernmost borders.