Council of Europe investigator says deaths of migrants adrift in Mediterranean exposes double standards in valuing human life.
A catalogue of failures by Nato warships and European coastguards led to the deaths of dozens of migrants left adrift at sea, according to a damning official report into the fate of a refugee boat in the Mediterranean whose distress calls went unanswered for days.
A nine-month investigation by the Council of Europe – the continent’s 47-nation human rights watchdog, which oversees the European court of human rights – has unearthed human and institutional failings that condemned the boat’s occupants to their fate.
Errors by military and commercial vessels sailing nearby, plus ambiguity in the coastguards’ distress calls and confusion about which authorities were responsible for mounting a rescue, were compounded by a long-term lack of planning by the UN, Nato and European nations over the inevitable increase in refugees fleeing north Africa during the international intervention in Libya.
The Guardian first exposed the tale of the “left-to-die” migrant vessel in May last year, after gathering testimony from the voyage’s few survivors. Having set sail from Tripoli in the dead of night, the dinghy – which was packed with 72 African migrants attempting to reach Europe – ran into trouble and was left floating with the currents for two weeks before being washed back up on to Libyan shores. Despite emergency calls being issued and the boat being located and identified by European coastguard officials, no rescue was ever attempted. All but nine of those on board died from thirst and starvation or in storms, including two babies.