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Tribute to all those who have helped save lives in the Mediterranean

Strasbourg, 18.12.2012 - “There are many faces that do not reach the limelight. Father Zerai’s is one of them,” said Giacomo Santini (Italy, EPP/CD), Chair of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), on International Migrants Day.

“He is a quiet, unassuming priest, who has saved many lives in the Mediterranean, alerting rescue and search services to boats full of migrants and asylum seekers in danger. I was reminded of him, and others like him, again this weekend when another small boat sank off the Greek island of Lesvos. 20 Iraqis were reportedly drowned. Tragically in this case there was no Father Zerai to warn the coastguard of the impending disaster.”

“It is ironic,” the Chair of the Committee continued, “that Father Zerai’s best known intervention failed to save the lives of 63 on board a boat heading to Europe from Libya in an episode that reached the front pages of many newspapers and was known as the ‘left-to-die boat’. This case was investigated in depth by PACE in the ‘Lives Lost’ report earlier this year in which the question was asked ‘Who was responsible?’ Was it states, military vessels, private shipping, international maritime law, search and rescue services, traffickers, smugglers…?”

Giacomo Santini concluded by saying: “On International Migrants Day we need to ask if we have done enough to stop these deaths at sea. Last weekend it was 20 Iraqis, next weekend it could be 20 Syrians as they flee the ever-worsening conflict in Syria. On the next occasion, will there be a Father Zerai at the end of a telephone to help them?”