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Irish Left Review
Joined up thinking for the Irish Left

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Lampeduse: NATO Ship ignores starving refugees in echo of Irish famine days

category international | racism & migration related issues | opinion/analysis author Monday May 09, 2011 23:02author by AC Report this post to the editors

DOZENS OF African migrants were left to die in the Mediterranean Sea after European and Nato military units apparently ignored their cries for help.

Saw this story '63 refugees left to die at sea after Nato aircraft carrier fails to respond' in the Irish Times today and thought of the Heaney poem about the Irish famine. Where is the outcry? Looks like nothing has changed since then in this laissez faire era. See the Irish Times for the full article.

...

A vessel carrying 72 passengers, including several women, children and political refugees, ran into trouble in late March after leaving Tripoli for the Italian island of Lampedusa. Despite alarms being raised with the Italian coastguard and the boat making contact with a military helicopter and a Nato warship, no rescue effort was attempted.

Nearly all of those on board eventually died from thirst and hunger after their vessel was left to drift in open water for 16 days.

“Every morning we would wake up and find more bodies, which we would leave for 24 hours and then throw overboard,” said Abu Kurke, one of only nine survivors. “By the final days, we didn’t know ourselves . . . everyone was either praying or dying.”

...

The vessel, with 72 people on board, set sail from Tripoli on March 25th, carrying 47 Ethiopians, seven Nigerians, seven Eritreans, six Ghanaians and five Sudanese migrants. Twenty were women and two were small children, one of whom was just a year old. The boat’s Ghanaian captain was aiming for the Italian island of Lampedusa, but after 18 hours at sea, the small vessel began running into trouble and losing fuel.

The account from witness testimony, survivors and other individuals who were in contact with the boat’s passengers paints a harrowing picture of a group of increasingly desperate people condemned to death by a combination of bad luck, bureaucracy and the apparent indifference of European military forces who had the opportunity to attempt a rescue.

The migrants initially used the boat’s onboard satellite phone to call Fr Zerai in Rome, who in turn contacted the Italian coast guard.

The boat’s location was narrowed down to about 100km outside of Tripoli; coast guard officials assured Fr Zerai that the alarm had been raised and all relevant authorities had been alerted.

Soon afterwards a military helicopter with the word “army” on its side appeared above the boat. The pilots, who were wearing military uniforms, lowered down bottles of water and packets of biscuits and gestured to passengers that they should hold their position until a rescue boat came to help. The helicopter then flew off, but no rescue boat ever arrived.

No country has yet admitted to sending the helicopter that made contact with the migrants.

A spokesman for the Italian coastguard said: “We advised Malta that the vessel was heading towards their search and rescue zone and we issued an alert telling vessels to look out for the boat, obliging them to attempt a rescue.” The Maltese authorities denied they had any involvement with the boat.

At some point on March 29th or 30th, the boat was carried near to a Nato aircraft carrier – so close that it would have been impossible to be missed.

According to survivors, two jet aircraft took off from the ship and flew low over the boat while the migrants stood on deck and held the two starving babies aloft into the air, but from that point on no help was forthcoming. Unable to manoeuvre any closer to the carrier, the migrants’ boat drifted.

...

“We saved one bottle of water from the helicopter for the two babies and kept feeding them even after their parents had passed [died],” said Mr Kurke, who survived by drinking his own urine and eating two tubes of toothpaste, “but after two days, the babies passed too,”
...

Related Link: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2011/0509/122....html
author by ACpublication date Mon May 09, 2011 23:07Report this post to the editors

I wouldn't normally be Heaney's greatest fan but when I saw the above article today I couldnt' help thinking of this poem. How little the logic of empire, and the complacency of the masses, changes from age to age.

FOR THE COMMANDER OF "THE ELIZA"

. . . . the others, with emaciated faces and prominent, staring eyeballs, were evidently in an advanced state of starvation. The officer in charge reported the incident to Sir James Dombrain, the Inspector General . . . . . and Sir James "very inconveniently," wrote Routh, "interfered." Cecil Woodham-Smith: The Great Hunger.

Routine patrol off West Mayo; sighting
A rowboat heading unusually far
Beyond the creek, I tacked and hailed the crew
In Gaelic. Their stroke had clearly weakened
As they pulled to, from guilt or bashfulness
I was conjecturing when, O my sweet Christ,
We saw piled in the bottom of their craft
Six grown men with gaping mouths and eyes
Bursting the sockets like spring onions in drills.
Six wrecks of bone and pallid, tautened skin.
"Biadh, biadh, biadh," in whines and snarls their desperation
Rose and fell like a flock of starving gulls.
We'd known about the shortage but on board
They always kept us right with flour and beef
So understand my feelings, and the men's,
Who had no mandate to relieve distress.
There was relief available in Westport
Though these poor brutes would clearly never make it.
I had to refuse food: they cursed and howled
Like dogs that had been kicked hard in the privates.
When they drove at me with their starboard oar
(Risking capsize themselves) I saw they were
Violent and without hope. I hoisted
And cleared off. Less incidents the better.
Next day, like six bad smells, those living skulls
Drifted through the dark of bunk and hatches
And once in port I exorcised my ship
Reporting all to the Inspector General.
Sir James, I understand, urged free relief
For famine victims in the Westport Sector
And earned tart reprimand from good Whitehall.
Let natives prosper by their own exertions;
Who could not swim might go ahead and sink.
"The Coast Guard with their zeal and activity
Are too lavish" were the words, I think.
Seamus Heaney

author by Tpublication date Tue May 10, 2011 09:13Report this post to the editors

People should remind themselves this is the same NATO that makes the claim that it is bombing Libya to save civilians lives. If it was really that concerned it would have saved these lives too. Clearly it is not just as clearly they are intervening in Libya not to save lifes but to help the Western powers help themselves to Libyan resources.

The whole episode shows the callousness of the machinery of the state.

author by opus diablos - the regressive hypocrite partypublication date Mon May 16, 2011 15:11Report this post to the editors

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=24779

also, if you are not on it already

stopnato@yahoogroups.com

unifiedcommand_worldmap1.jpg

author by opus diablos - the regressive hypocrite partypublication date Wed May 18, 2011 20:19Report this post to the editors

.. at it again.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=24746

Next up on the circus bill: Buffalo Soldier.

 
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