President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Mevlüt Çavusoglu, has expressed distress and deep concern following reports that 61 boat people died after their appeals for rescue were ignored. Reportedly, their boat was left to drift in the Mediterranean for 16 days.
“If this grave accusation is true – that, despite the alarm being raised, and despite the fact that this boat, fleeing Libya, had been located by armed forces operating in the Mediterranean, no attempt was made to rescue the 72 passengers aboard, then it is a dark day for Europe as a whole,” he declared.
“I call for an immediate and comprehensive inquiry into the circumstances of the deaths of the 61 people who perished, including babies, children and women who – one by one – died of starvation and thirst while Europe looked on,” he added.
He appreciated the acts of solidarity that led to rescue of over 400 boat people on Sunday by the Italian coastguard, with the help of Lampedusa’s inhabitants. “This is something Europe should be proud of.”
“Finally, Europe should stop exaggerating the impact of these arrivals. Libya’s neighbouring countries, mainly Egypt and Tunisia, are dealing with over 650,000 refugees who have fled the conflict there. In a spirit of solidarity and of burden-sharing, the 27 EU member states should at least be able to deal, in a humane way and in compliance with their international obligations, with the arrival by boat of several thousand,” Mr Çavusoglu added.
“Our Assembly will be sending a delegation to Lampedusa on 23-24 May 2011 to evaluate the situation there, ahead of two major debates – possibly in June – on the rescue of boat-people and the need for Europe to share responsibility. The Assembly has produced a string of critical reports on these matters, and will continue to urgently insist on the humane and lawful treatment of asylum-seekers, refugees and irregular migrants coming to Europe.”