Dutch MP to interview Maltese officials over claims they ignored distress call

Father Moses Zerai speaks out at Council of Europe inquiry into claims boat was ignored by military helicopter and aircraft carrier.

The Eritrean priest who denounced to the world that a boat carrying African an migrants in the Mediterranean was ignored by NATO military assets, has told a Council of Europe inquiry that a military helicopter dropped water to the migrants but then vanished and that a naval vessel simply ignored them.

“I spoke to the migrants, I alerted the authorities. People were on that boat waving babies in the air when the naval vessel passed, and yet they still died of hunger and thirst,” Fr Moses Zerai, an Eritrean priest based in Rome, said.

Zerai and three of only nine survivors of the boat trip were interviewed in Rome by the Dutch MP Tineke Strik, who is heading a Council of Europe inquiry into claims.

Strik said she is planning interviews with officials from NATO and the Maltese government, which the Italian coastguard says was alerted to the boat’s plight.

“I still see the people dying before me when I sleep,” said Abu Kurke, 23, an Ethiopian survivor who met Strik. “The helicopter gave us water but did not save us – are we not human beings?” Kurke had spent 12 months in a Libyan jail before attempting the dangerous sea crossing.

NATO has denied a report claiming its military units failed to save dozens of migrants fleeing north Africa by boat which had been adrift in the ocean for 16 days, leading to the deaths of 61 people.

British newspaper The Guardian said despite a distress call from the boat to the Italian coastguard and a military helicopter and NATO warship, no rescue effort was attempted. It said the boat, carrying 72 people including women, children and political refugees, ran into trouble after leaving Tripoli, the Libyan capital, for the Italian island of Lampedusa on March 25.

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.

The paper said 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.

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The western and other affluent/richer societies should help poorer countries and their people stand upon their feet, mainly help them democratize their societies by helping them to get rid of their arrogant, corrupt and evil dictators. Helping the relativity "few" illegal immigrants does not solve the problems their people face back home. It has the opposite effect that is draining their societies from human resources. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPjzfGChGlE&feature=player_embedded
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Don't seem like the illegals were forced at gun point to get into the boat, plus they had the luxury of a satellite phone. It is sad that so many had to die but before starting to point fingers the source of this misadventure should be investigated first.
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Who the hell does the man think he is to point fingers. In the first place it is he who should be place under scrutinization since he is helping to move illegal immigrants to come to europe. Come on Europe lets not make us the laughing stock of the world.