The Malta Independent 25 October 2014, Saturday

Foreign MEPs are seeking answers on Lampedusa tragedy

Malta Independent Sunday, 26 January 2014, 11:00 Last update: about 5 months ago

A number of foreign MEPs want to find out the truth about the 11 October Lampedusa tragedy but are unable to do so because the Maltese government is refusing to answer questions by journalists and politicians, PN MEP Roberta Metsola told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

Speaking during an interview that will be published tomorrow, the PN MEP and EP elections candidate said that she had even asked the government for answers herself, but like journalists, she is being stonewalled.

“I put an official question to the Maltese government and asked for a clarification on what happened on 11 October but I did not get an answer. We need to know the truth about this tragedy. It is unacceptable that a government refuses to answer journalists and democratically elected persons like me about what happened on that day.”

Ms Metsola said that several members of the European Parliament have been raising questions on the issue. “There are a number of foreign MEPs who are asking me for details and information and it is shameful that I cannot give them an answer.”

The PN MEP agreed that the government should also launch an inquiry into the tragedy. “If there are doubts on what happened and who was responsible for coordinating or taking part in the rescue mission then yes, there should be an inquiry.

 

Incident remains shrouded in mystery

Throughout these past weeks, The Malta Independent on Sunday has been reporting on the tragedy that cost the lives of 270 Syrian men, women and children. Serious doubts about Malta’s rescue procedure have come to light after testimonies by several survivors indicated that Malta and Italy had bickered over the issue and failed to take the right decisions.

The timeline of events seems to show that Italy wasted time to allow the migrant boat - that was slowly sinking - to enter Maltese SAR waters, so that Malta would have to take the difficult decisions. But after taking charge of the operation at 1pm, Malta seems to have failed to ask a number of Italian vessels to help, despite the fact that they were close to the migrant boat. The Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre could have asked Italian warships, coast guard and Guardia di Finanza vessels, as well as two merchant ships to rescue the migrants, but for some reason no such order was issued. The boat sank more than four hours later, at 5.07pm, by which time no vessel had reached the area. Malta only asked for Italy’s help after the boat capsized and sank.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had indicated in a TV interview that he felt the need to “ignore the rules and save the migrants and bring them to Malta”. This was considered by Italian politicians as a clear message that, according to Dr Muscat, it was not Malta’s duty to save the migrants. The issue has since ended up in the Italian Parliament where the Italian government insisted that Malta was responsible for the rescue and failed to call for help from Italy. Several Members of Parliament have also called for an inquiry.

The government and the Maltese armed forces have refused to say what happened but insist they have documentation that exonerates them. The documentation will not be published. In the meantime, the alleged human trafficker and captain of the migrant boat, Palestinian Attour Abdalmemen, will face trial in Palermo on 3 February. It is thought that more details could emerge during the trial.

The full interview with Roberta Metsola will be published on Monday. 

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