Lampedusa: call for investigation into allegations that boats failed to carry out rescue

Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on “Lives lost in the Mediterranean”, today called for an investigation into allegations that fishing or other boats failed to go to the rescue of drowning persons off the island of Lampedusa.

“I am deeply distressed at yet another tragedy in the Mediterranean, with lives lost from this one incident already reaching 111 and a final toll of 300 expected. Having investigated a catalogue of failures which led to the deaths of 63 migrants last year on the so called ‘left-to-die boat’, I am extremely concerned by reports that several vessels may have ignored distress signals coming from this boat in trouble. I am aware of criticism of certain provisions in Italian law which effectively dissuade boat captains from going to the aid of migrants in distress at sea. No legal provision, however, should be a barrier to the rescue of persons at sea whose lives are in danger. ”

Ms Strik said she would look further into these allegations in the follow-up to her report on ‘Lives Lost in the Mediterranean’. “In the meantime, I call on the Italian authorities to investigate whether any boats failed to go to the rescue of persons in distress, and examine, as appropriate, whether current national criminal provisions may be contributing to the number of reports of boats failing to help persons in distress at sea.”

Ms Strik ended by saying that these tragedies could only be stopped through co-ordinated European action, including the possibility of safe passage for asylum seekers and refugees. “How many more images of bodies on the beach and survivors from the sea,” she asked, “will it take before European action matches the level of its words?”