domenica 11 settembre 2011

Priest demands EU investigate deaths of 60 immigrants left at sea

Father Mussie Zerai recently called on European officials to investigate why no efforts were made to rescue 60 African immigrants in April who were adrift at sea.

Speaking to EWTN News from the Vatican Gardens on Sept. 7, Fr. Zerai said he personally received a call from the boat carrying the immigrants in the Mediterranean Sea. “I notified the Italian Coast Guard that there as a boat in trouble with these people on board, but nobody intervened,” he said.

Italian Coast Guard officers told the priest they would verify the location of the boat. Since it was 60 miles offshore from Tripoli in international waters near Malta, they notified Maltese officials and all merchant vessels that were nearby.

However, 15 days later the boat reached the coast of Libya with only nine survivors.

“On Saturday, March 26 they were spotted by helicopter and were dropped food and water, but they received no further help. They thought they would be saved but nobody came back for them,” Fr. Zerai said.

A few days later they were spotted by an aircraft carrier but still no help was sent, the priest explained. “These people drifted for 15 days and even though they were seen by various merchant, military and civil vessels, nobody helped them.”

Dozens of men, women and children aboard the vessel died of hunger and thirst.

Fr. Zerai is the founder and president of the Habeshia Agency, which assists refugees fleeing from troubled parts of the world. He demanded that the European Parliament investigate the Mediterranean incident.

An investigative committee of the Council of Europe heard testimony from three of the survivors on Sept. 6, and Stefano Grego, a representative of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, met with Fr. Zerai.

“We would like to know the nationality of the aircraft carrier that was sailing close to the drifting Africans who were suffering from hunger and thirst,” the priest said in a statement.

He said he hoped the investigation would result in the modification of some European laws that discourage assisting vessels that are stranded at sea. “We should not be trampled upon, ignored or subject to political or economic interests of this kind.”

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