Europe probes migrant deaths in Mediterranean

23rd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly on Thursday said it has opened an investigation into the cases of 1,000 migrants who went missing in the Mediterranean while fleeing unrest in North Africa.

The Strasbourg-based body said it will issue a report in October to establish responsibility in the deaths of around 1,000 migrants who perished at sea while trying to reach Europe from turmoil-wracked North Africa since January.

"There have been allegations that migrants and refugees died after their calls for help were ignored," said Dutch lawmaker and parliament member Tineke Strik who is tasked with the inquiry.

"Such a grave allegation must be urgently investigated," she said, adding she will examine how the migrant ships were intercepted by different national coast guards, military vessels and EU border agency Frontex.

Last month reports said 61 boat people had died after distress signals had been ignored by armed forces operating in the Mediterranean. PACE President Mevlyut Cavusoglu called for an immediate inquiry into the incident.

Popular uprisings in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt forced thousands of refugees to flee to Europe, often stopping at the southern Italian island of Lampedusa which became Europe's gateway for illegal immigration.

© 2011 AFP

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