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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’Otan aurait laissé mourir des migrants en pleine mer

by (adapted from the Guardian article)

NATO May Have Left Migrants to Die at Sea

Translated Monday 16 May 2011, by Harvetta and reviewed by Henry Crapo

According to the British daily, the Guardian, it appears that military units of the European Union and NATO refused to come to the aid of a boat transporting African migrants floating off the Italian island of Lampedusa on March 25.

Although the Italian coast guard could have been alerted and the boat loaded with migrants was in contact with a helicopter and a NATO warship, no effort was made to pick up the boat’s occupants, writes the Guardian. Out of 72 persons on board, including women and young children and political refugees fleeing combat in Libya, 61 died of hunger or thirst over the 16 days their boat drifted. According to the Guardian, which quoted the survivors, 47 Ethiopians, seven Nigerians, seven Eritreans, six Ghanaian, and five Sudanese were on board.

The Ghanaian boat captain steered towards Lampedusa, 290 km northwest of Tripoli, but 18 hours at sea the vessel ran into problems and lost fuel. The migrants called an Eritrean priest in Rome by telephone who contacted the Italian coast guard. A short time later, a helicopter with pilots wearing uniforms flew over the boat and threw out bottles of water and packages of biscuits, writes the British newspaper. The pilots signaled to the passengers that they should stay in this area until a boat came to help them, but no boat ever came, states the article.

The aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle did not come to the aid of the migrants.

On March 29 or 30, continues the British daily, the migrants’ boat drifted in view of a NATO aircraft carrier, and according to survivors, two planes took off from the deck and flew at low altitude over the boat. The passengers stood up and held up the two babies on board. However, the Guardian states that no aid arrived and the emigrants died one by one of hunger and thirst. On April 10, when the drifting boat washed up on a beach close to Zlitane in the area of Misrata in Western Libya, only 11 people on board were still alive. One of them died a short time after landing. The Guardian wrote that after an in-depth investigation it concluded that the aircraft carrier in question was probably the Charles-de-Gaulle, which was cruising in the Mediterranean.

Contacted by the Guardian, a NATO spokesperson stated that no ship from their organization had been notified. If they had been, one would have been obligated to go to their aid as required by international law. In Paris, military staff denied that any French ship was involved. "The Charles-de-Gaulle was at no time in contact with this type of vessel, nor was any other French ship, given the geographic position”, Thierry Burkard, spokesperson for the army general staff stated.

Read more:

- Des bateaux de clandestins arrivés à Lampedusa

- Lampedusa une île avant-poste de la forteresse europe

- Questions autour du rôle de l’Otan

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