Según un portavoz de la Unión Europea: “Es una clara obligación moral y una obligación legal”.
By Peter Popham in Rome
Published: 28 May 2007
For three days and three nights, these African migrants clung desperately to life. Their means of survival is a tuna net, being towed across the Mediterranean by a Maltese tug that refused to take them on board after their frail boat sank.
Malta and Libya, where they had embarked on their perilous journey, washed their hands of them. Eventually, they were rescued by the Italian navy.
The astonishing picture shows them hanging on to the buoys that support the narrow runway that runs around the top of the net. They had had practically nothing to eat or drink.
Last night, on the island of Lampedusa, the 27 young men - from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan and other countries - told of their ordeal. As their flimsy boat from Libya floundered adrift for six days, two fishing boats failed to rescue them. On Wednesday, the Maltese boat, the Budafel allowed them to mount the walkway but refused to have them on board.
This is the latest snapshot from the killing seas of the southern Mediterranean, the stretch of water at the European Union's southern gate that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says "has become like the Wild West, where human life has no value any more and people are left to their fate".
On Friday, The Independent reported how a Maltese plane photographed a crazily overloaded boat in this area carrying 53 Eritreans, several of whom telephoned desperate pleas for help to relatives in London, Italy and Malta. The boat disappeared with all hands before anything was done to save them. They died, not because help was unavailable, but because no-one wanted to do anything. Malta is full up. Libya, where these voyages begin, takes no responsibility. One might think that the EU's new frontiers agency, Frontex, had a part to play. But its "rapid response team" remains on the drawing board.
Frontex is expected to begin joint patrols in the Mediterranean shortly, following a brief pilot programme last year. But the critical stretch between Malta and Libya is to be controlled by Malta and Greece, and the hard-nosed attitude of the Maltese in recent weeks does not inspire optimism.
The Maltese captain of the Budafel refused to land the men, he later explained, because he had $1m-worth of tuna in the pen. If he had taken them to Malta, the trip would have taken 12 days, given the tug's slow speed. There, he would have found himself in the middle of a diplomatic wrangle. "I couldn't take the risk of losing this catch," he said.
The Associated Press
BRUSELAS --La Unión Europea admitió el martes que sus esfuerzos para lidiar con inmigrantes ilegales que cruzan el Mediterráneo no estaban dando resultado, luego de reportes de que africanos naufragados fueron dejados colgando de una red de atún durante días mientras barcos no les aceptaban a bordo.
"La cooperación no está funcionando", dijo el portavoz de la UE Friso Roscam Abbing. "Es una situación bien difícil".
Roscam Abbing se refería a reportes de prensa de que 27 emigrantes se aferraron durante tres días a una red atunera remolcada por un barco pesquero maltés luego que su embarcación se hundiese, antes de ser eventualmente rescatados por un barco italiano.
El portavoz dijo que la UE investigaría el incidente y otros reportes recientes de que víctimas de naufragio no fueron recogidos por barcos europeos que pasaban o no se les permitió ingreso a puerto luego de ser rescatados.
Dijo a reporteros que las autoridades de la UE iban "primero a analizar la situación para ver por qué la coordinación no funcionó bien, como es obvio".
Roscam Abbing recordó que los capitanes de barco tienen la obligación de rescatar a personas en peligro en alta mar.
"Ningún capitán de ningún barco puede eludir la obligación de salvar vidas", dijo el portavoz de la UE. "Es una clara obligación moral y una obligación legal".