African immigrants stuck in a disabled boat signal for aid in a busy Mediterranean shipping channel. Western warships enforcing NATO’s than-arms embargo against Libya pass by the disabled vessel, but none see fit to respond to the distress call—nor do Italy or Malta, both located close enough to help. Passing fishing vessels are similarly indifferent. A helicopter buzzes the boat twice, dropping some biscuits and water, but no vessels followed.
Two weeks adrift soon take their toll on the tightly-packed refugees: only 10 out of the 72 on board will ultimately survive the ordeal – and one of the survivors will die in a Libyan detention center.
This was the fate of these hapless African immigrants in March 2011, and now, over a year later, an inquiry has been launched into why they were allowed to drift without assistance for so long.
The Council of Europe conducted a nine-month long investigation that ultimately concluded the defense alliance willfully ignored the plight of the hapless refugees. French human rights lawyers have announced a formal inquiry into the deaths, and although their target is the French navy – which allegedly operated one of the indifferent vessels – the legal team has stated they will go after any party found culpable.