In 2011, as the Gaddafi regime was failing, a boatload of people fled Libya to escape persecution. This overcrowded boat should have made it to Italy in a day, but after 18 hours at sea they realised they were in trouble.
Using a satellite phone they called a refugee advocate in Italy and told him of their plight. He alerted the coastguard who found out their position from the satellite phone and sent out a message to all shipping.
A helicopter with ‘army’ written on its side in English, flew low over the boat and photographed them. The people on the boat thought help would soon follow. None did.
Days later, when half the people on the boat had died, or gone into the water through accident, despair or delirium, they passed close to a large ship with two helicopters on its deck. Close enough that they saw its crew filming/photographing them, but the ship offered no aid. Nor did it inform anyone of their location.
Later still, the sea drove the boat ashore again in Libya. Eleven people of the original seventy had survived. One died on the beach. Another in the prison Libyan forces put them in.
Start to finish there were many people who could have helped them; the people smugglers, fishing boats, and the Libyan forces. However, the helicopter and ship they saw were almost certainly part of NATO forces assisting the Libyan opposition – surely they have the highest moral responsibility?
Yet NATO denied (originally) it even received the coastguard message, and they refuse to release information – or pressure the member countries to – about where NATO ships were during the two weeks the boat was at sea.
How can an organisation like NATO behave this way? Aren’t they supposed to be the good guys?
And somewhere out there are good serving people who know they saw this boat, but are silent.
There were children, babies, men and women on that boat. It is beyond a tragedy that they were left for dead. They could so easily have been saved.