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‘The left-to-die boat’: there should be no gaps in the division of responsibility for search and rescue

Strasbourg, 16.12.2011 – “This visit to Malta was important for my inquiry into who is responsible for lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea, and enabled me to piece together another part of the puzzle in the case of the ‘left-to-die boat’”, said Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), speaking at the end of a two-day visit to Malta (15 and 16 December 2011).

The visit to Malta focused on an incident reported in March-April this year, when 63 boat people fleeing Libya were left to die after their appeals for rescue had allegedly been ignored.

“Having already visited Italy and spoken with officials from NATO, it was indispensable also to learn how Malta acted in this case,” said the rapporteur. “Nonetheless, the puzzle remains incomplete. Gaps remain and important questions still need to be answered. As time is precious in this kind of inquiry, I very much count on national authorities, NATO and the EU to provide me swiftly with the information I have requested.”

“The on-going war in Libya at that time made it difficult to establish who was responsible for co-ordinating search and rescue operations at sea, but it was clear to everyone that the Libyan authorities were not in a position to undertake search and rescue in practice,” she said. “There should be no gaps in the division of responsibility in practice, and yet that is exactly what seems to have happened here.”

“Besides, the on-going dispute between Italy and Malta on their respective responsibility with regard to the disembarkation of boat people rescued at sea remains a cause of serious concern,” she said.