Left-to-die boat

10.04.2011 / 12:19 / Central Mediterranean

The migrants’ vessel left the Port of Tripoli between 00:00 and 02:00 GMT on 27 March 2011 with 72 migrants on board. The vessel was sighted by a French aircraft which transmitted its coordinates to Rome MRCC. After proceeding in the direction of Lampedusa for 15 - 18 hours, the migrants placed a distress call by satellite phone to an Eritrean priest based in Italy. The priest, in turn, called the MRCC in Rome to alert them to the fact that there was a vessel in distress. Shortly following this call, the MRCC in Rome published an Enhanced Group Call message and alerted both Malta MRCC and NATO HQ allied command in Naples that a vessel was in distress. It also provided them with the vessel’s geographic coordinates at 16:52 GMT. Following the broadcast of the vessel’s position, a helicopter baring the writing "ARMY" arrived, observed the boat and left. After this visit by the helicopter, the position of the boat was determined a second time as 9 nautical miles NNW of the earlier position. The migrants then waited 4 - 5 hours in the same area, where their requests for help from some fishermen went unheeded. Still in the same position, the vessel was visited for a second time by a military helicopter that dropped biscuits and water before leaving. The vessel then continued NNW towards Lampedusa for 5 – 8 hours before running out of fuel at approximately 07:00 GMT on 28 March, at which time the boat began to drift. The boat drifted SSW for 7 - 8 days before it encountered a military ship. On 10 April, the boat landed south- east of Tripoli at Zlitan. Upon landing, 11 migrants were still alive. 2 died shortly thereafter.

Several legal proceedings have been filed by a coalition of NGOs to demand accountability for the fate of the passengers. A legal complaint “against persons unknown” was initially lodged before the section of the Paris High Court (Tribunal de grande instance) specializing in military cases in April 2012, after a similar procedure in Italy. After the decision of the Paris Prosecutor’s Office to take no action on this initial complaint, the survivors and the NGOs initiated proceedings in France and Spain as civil parties, in a way that will force the opening of judicial investigations. Freedom of Information requests have been submitted in Canada, the US, and the UK.

Despite several investigations into to this incident and repeated inquiries, the identity of the helicopter(s) and the military vessel that entered into direct contact with the migrants has not been revealed.

On the 28th of november 2013, three survivors of this tragedy, filed a complaint at the Brussels Tribunal of First Instance against the Belgian army for failing to provide assistance to persons in distress.
Last update: 15:17 Jul 14, 2014
Credibility: UP DOWN 0
Left-to-die boat Left-to-die boat
Layers »
  • drift model
  • Border police patrols
    While the exact location of patrols is of course constantly changing, this line indicates the approximate boundary routinely patrolled by border guards’ naval assets. In the open sea, it usually correspond to the outer extent of the contiguous zone, the area in which “State may exercise the control necessary to prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws” (UNCLOS, art. 33). Data source: interviews with border police officials.
  • Coastal radars
    Approximate radar beam range covered by coastal radars operating in the frame of national marine traffic monitoring systems. The actual beam depends from several different parameters (including the type of object to be detected). Data source: Finmeccanica.
  • Exclusive Economic Zone
    Maritime area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea in which the coastal state exercises sovereign rights for the purposes of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, the seabed and its subsoil and the superjacent waters. Its breadth is 200 nautical miles from the straight baselines from which the territorial sea is measured (UNCLOS, Arts. 55, 56 and 57). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans
  • Frontex operations
    Frontex has, in the past few years, carried out several sea operations at the maritime borders of the EU. The blue shapes indicate the approximate extend of these operations. Data source: Migreurop Altas.
  • Mobile phone coverage
    Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network coverage. Data source: Collins Mobile Coverage.
  • Oil and gas platforms
    Oil and gas platforms in the Mediterranean. Data source:
  • Search and Rescue Zone
    An area of defined dimensions within which a given state is has the responsibility to co-ordinate Search and Rescue operations, i.e. the search for, and provision of aid to, persons, ships or other craft which are, or are feared to be, in distress or imminent danger. Data source: IMO availability of search and rescue (SAR) services - SAR.8/Circ.3, 17 June 2011.
  • Territorial Waters
    A belt of sea (usually extending up to 12 nautical miles) upon which the sovereignty of a coastal State extends (UNCLOS, Art. 2). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans

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