venerdì 30 marzo 2012

Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?

Provisional version – as adopted in committee on 29.03.2012

Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?


Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons

Rapporteur: Ms Tineke STRIK, Netherlands, Socialist Group


The starting point for this report is that at least 1 500 people are known to have lost their lives attempting to

cross the Mediterranean in 2011. This report however focuses on one particularly harrowing case in which a

small boat left Tripoli with 72 people on board and after two weeks at sea drifted back to Libya with only nine

survivors. No one went to the aid of this boat, despite a distress call logged by the Italian Maritime Rescue

Coordination Centre, which pinpointed the boat’s position. There were also a number of alleged direct contacts

between the boat in distress and other vessels, including a helicopter that dropped biscuits and water, but

never returned, two fishing vessels, both of which refused to provide assistance, and a large military vessel

which came into close contact with the boat, but ignored obvious distress signals.

From this story, a catalogue of failures became apparent: the Libyan authorities failed to maintain responsibility

for their Search and Rescue zone, the Italian and Maltese Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres failed to

launch any search and rescue operation, and NATO failed to react to the distress calls, even though there were

military vessels under its control in the boat’s vicinity when the distress call was sent (including the Mendez

Núñez which was estimated to have been 11 miles away although this distance is disputed by Spain) The flag

States of vessels close to the boat also failed to rescue the people in distress. Furthermore, two unidentified

commercial fishing vessels also failed to respond to the direct calls for assistance from the boat in distress.

Alongside these failures, a number of shortcomings contributed to the distress calls not being answered,

including gaps in the maritime legal framework and a failure by NATO and the individual States militarily

involved in Libya to anticipate adequately for an exodus of asylum seekers and refugees. Perhaps of most

concern in this case is the alleged failure of the helicopter and the naval vessel to go to the aid of the boat in

distress, regardless of whether these were under national command or the command of NATO.

In this case, many opportunities for saving the lives of the persons on board the boat were lost. A series of

recommendations are made in the draft resolution to reduce the likelihood of similar tragedies in the future.

There is also a request for further information from NATO and relevant member States to identify or carry out

an investigation into the identity of the helicopter and ship that allegedly failed to go to the rescue of the boat in


Reconstruction of the itinerary and of the drifting of the “left-to-die” boat29

29 FORENSIC OCEANOGRAPHY: Charles Heller, Lorenzo Pezzani and Situ Studio.

Drift Model: Richard Limeburner, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

This work is produced in the framework of the ERC funded Project “Forensic Architecture” – Goldsmiths, Centre for Research Architecture and towards a report that will be published in April 2012.

DRIFT MODEL CREDITS: Ocean currents were obtained from the MyOcean website

( MyOcean provides data mainly from EuroGOOS Regional alliances which have deeply contributed to structure the European

Operational Oceanography community. The ocean currents were actually provided by the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) in Italy. INGV uses NEMO (Nucleus for European Modeling of

the Ocean), a state-of-the-art modeling framework for oceanographic research, operational oceanography, seasonal forecasts and climate studies. See Wind data at the

Lampedusa Island airport was obtained from EuroWeather ( Weather data at Libyan meteorological stations was unreliable in early 2011.

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