Deaths in Mediterranean: Time for Europe to face its responsibilities
(Brussels, 29 March 2012) Today, as the Council of Europe adopts a report by its Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) seeking to identify who was responsible for the deaths of 63 migrants in the Mediterranean, Amnesty International has expressed its disquiet that PACE has yet to receive satisfactory replies from key players, including NATO, countries involved in NATO operations, and European Union institutions.
“The deaths of these men, women and children is shocking and could have been prevented”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “Everyone involved in this tragic incident must co-operate fully with this investigation. Whoever is responsible must be held to account.”
PACE’s Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons has adopted the report “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: Who is responsible
”, by Tineke Strik. She has enquired into the deaths of 63 men, women and children who were left to die on a boat coming from Libya in March last year. According to the nine survivors, they encountered various vessels and even a military helicopter but their calls for help went unheeded.
Although the report focuses on a single incident, the Mediterranean is the scene of many more such tragedies. In 2011, as uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East evolved, at least 1,500 people drowned as they tried to cross the Mediterranean. In a bid to avoid further unnecessary deaths, the committee endorsed several recommendations on search and rescue operations. Amnesty International has welcomed the Council of Europe’s appeal to its member states to ensure greater clarity over their obligation to rescue vessels in distress, and has expressed the hope that the recommendations will contribute to a more effective search and rescue system.
“While officials quibble over who’s responsible for search and rescue, we’re wasting precious time and more people’s lives are being jeopardised”, said Beger. “European countries and the EU must boost their efforts to comply with their international legal obligations on search and rescue. Saving lives must be the absolute priority.”
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