Immigration: Council of Europe adopts report on Mediterranean deaths

Italy, Nato blamed for tragedy

24 April, 17:42

A boat with immigrants on their way to Lampedusa (Archive photo) A boat with immigrants on their way to Lampedusa (Archive photo)

(ANSAmed) - STRASBOURG - The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly has approved with 108 in favour out of a total of 151 the report which places blame on Italy and other European countries (such as Spain) as well as NATO for the death of 63 migrants in the Mediterranean in March 2011. In voting on the report, the assembly rejected all of the amendments presented by PPE representatives of the Italian delegation which aimed to eliminate part of the text in which Italy (as the first country to have received the call for help) was to be held responsible for assistance coordination. This is the reason for which 9 of the 13 members of the Italian delegation in the chamber voted against the report by the Dutch parliamentarian Tineke Strik. ''With this report a precedent has been set establishing that the first country to receive an SOS has the duty to provide rescue assistance,'' underscored Luigi Vitali (PDL), president of the Italian delegation, adding that ''in any case this is not a principle contained in any regulation in force''. According to its sponsor, the regulation exists but has no binding value. In the meantime, Nato has again denied any responsibility for the deaths of the 63 migrants. In a third letter sent to Strik, the Atlantic alliance states that it is not in possession of any ''satellite images that could help identify military, commercial or any other type of vessels'' that may have been present in the sea area at the time in question.


 ''NATO has not declared a 'military zone' in the Mediterranean and did not play a coordinating role in the search and rescue operations in the area,'' spokesperson Oana Lungescu points out. While admitting that ''helicopters from vessels under NATO command flew over the zone where the migrants' boat was positioned at the time of the incident,'' in its letter, NATO insists that ''there is no evidence'' in its possession ''linking helicopters under NATO command to the time and place at which the survives state they were given water and biscuits''. At the time of the incident, the Alliance further states, ''only eight ships under NATO command were in the Mediterranean to patrol an operational area of 61,000 nautical miles''.  (ANSAmed).