A tragedy at sea last year left 72 migrants stranded in the Mediterranean as passengers holding dead babies in the air and waving empty fuel tanks went ignored by hovering NATO helicopters. A 'damning' new report conducted by Goldsmiths, University of London, pairs survivor's stories with 'forensic' evidence putting the British Lynx helicopter at the scene along with other passing NATO vessels -- all of which ignored the migrants' plight.
"The document outlines the scale and sophistication of NATO's maritime surveillance operation in the Mediterranean at the time...and the ease with which a rescue of the stricken boat could have been undertaken," writes The Guardian. The report is among the first to explicitly blame NATO forces for the tragedy.
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A damning new report into the death of dozens of African migrants who were left drifting in the Mediterranean last year has concluded that NATO contributed to the 63 fatalities, and raises for the first time the possibility of British military forces being connected with the tragedy.
The exhaustive, 90-page study by experts at Goldsmiths, University of London makes use of cutting-edge "forensic oceanography" technology to determine the exact movements of the doomed migrant vessel, which was left drifting without power for two weeks in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, despite European and NATO officials having been aware of the boat's plight and location. Almost everyone on board, including two small babies, eventually died of thirst and starvation.
The report reveals that the survivors' description of a military helicopter that twice hovered over and communicated with their boat, only to then fly and off and abandon them without attempting a rescue, corresponds almost exactly to the British army's Westland Lynx helicopter. Units of Lynxes are known to have been operating in the Mediterranean at the time of the Libyan conflict. [...]
It echoes the Council of Europe in condemning NATO, and claims to demonstrate "a high degree of involvement on the part of participating states/NATO command and assets that contributed to the death of 63 passengers on board the 'left-to-die boat' and to grave psychological and physiological consequences for all 72 passengers." [...]
The report concludes that vital classified information must now be released by national militaries and NATO in an effort to ensure accountability for those who died. "Participating states/NATO forces had the information and the ability to assist the migrants but failed to do so in a way that would have prevented the deaths of 63 people," the authors state. "Only through further inquiry and disclosure by all parties involved will they receive the definite answers they deserve."
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Britain and the US refused to co-operate with a recent Council of Europe investigation into the tragedy, which concluded that the deaths were avoidable, blaming institutional failures within Nato and its constituent countries’ military forces for the tragic outcome.
Subsequent to that investigation, Nato has come under increasing pressure to identify the helicopter and the boat that are believed to have contacted the migrant vessel, but have so far refused to release classified imagery.
The Goldsmiths report, which used advanced technology to map the drift of the migrant boat, highlights the ease with which a rescue operation could have been initiated by Nato.
The research concludes by stating "participating states/Nato forces had the information and the ability to assist the migrants but failed to do so in a way that would have prevented the deaths of 63 people," adding that "only through further inquiry and disclosure by all parties involved will they receive the definite answers they deserve."
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