Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FOCUS

Video: Milan is starting point for Syrian refugees’ European odyssey

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

Terrorist ransoms: Should governments pay up for hostages?

Read more

ENCORE!

Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche star in 'Clouds of Sils Maria'

Read more

WEB NEWS

India: journalist launches "Rice Bucket Challenge"

Read more

WEB NEWS

Russian aid convoy: Mission accomplished?

Read more

WEB NEWS

Actor Orlando Jones lauches 'Bullet Bucket Challenge'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Macron Economics'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Macron-economics, the former banker turned minister

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'The capital of sex, drugs, alcohol, trash and trashy tourism'

Read more

  • UN probe accuses Syrian regime, militants of ‘crimes against humanity’

    Read more

  • France’s Hollande puts young ex-banker in top economy post

    Read more

  • Video: Iraq’s Yazidis flee to spiritual capital of Lalish

    Read more

  • Video: Milan is starting point for Syrian refugees’ European odyssey

    Read more

  • Liberia sacks ministers who left amid Ebola outbreak

    Read more

  • Airstrikes and Assad - Obama’s military conundrum in Syria

    Read more

  • IMF’s Lagarde investigated in French corruption case

    Read more

  • American journalist held captive in Syria arrives in US

    Read more

  • In pictures: The ministers in France's new government

    Read more

  • 'Lasting' ceasefire agreed for Gaza, Abbas says

    Read more

  • Far-right ‘Russian Jihad’ fighters cross into Ukraine

    Read more

  • American 'Islamic State fighter' killed in Syria

    Read more

  • The ‘war’ at the heart of France’s ruling party

    Read more

  • Rebels 'shoot down' UN helicopter in South Sudan

    Read more

  • Air France pilots threaten September strike

    Read more

  • WHO seeks stricter regulation for e-cigarettes

    Read more

France

Navy denies French warship left African migrants to die

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-05-10

The French navy and NATO have denied allegations in the UK’s Guardian newspaper that the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier (pictured) fatally ignored distress calls from a migrant boat in the Mediterranean.

The French Navy rebuffed Monday a report in the UK’s Guardian newspaper that the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle let 72 migrants starve in the Mediterranean.

"If the sailors had seen a boat in distress, they would have obviously helped it," French navy spokesman Thierry Burkhard said Monday.

According to the article published on Sunday, the aircraft carrier ignored the African migrants' calls for help, causing the deaths of 61 aboard the tragedy-struck ship.

One survivor, Abu Kurke, interviewed by the British daily declared that around March 29 or 30, the migrants’ boat floated near an aircraft carrier that could not have missed their presence.

“Extensive inquiries” identified that the carrier was “likely to have been the French ship Charles de Gaulle,” the Guardian wrote, without offering further details .

However, France's Burkhard stated, “The Charles de Gaulle was never in contact with the boat, because it was never located in that area."

A NATO spokeswoman, Carmen Romero, also dismissed allegations that a NATO military ship had been in contact with the refugees. “A single aircraft carrier was under NATO command at that time, the Italian ship Garibaldi, and it was more than 100 nautical miles away,” she said. “Therefore, any statement that a NATO aircraft carrier spotted then ignored the distressed vessel is false.”

The Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier operates under the command of the French navy. Only its jets, once called into mission, come under the command of NATO.

Drifting for 16 days

"We'd finished the oil, we'd finished the food and water, we'd finished everything," said Abu Kurke, the 24-year-old Eritrean who survived the ordeal. The man described a nightmarish voyage on a ship that was allowed to drift at sea for 16 days.

According to the Guardian’s account, the ship sailed off from Tripoli on March 25 with 72 passengers, including women and children, aboard. The boat was to transport the African migrants to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Shortly after setting sail the captain realised the ship was leaking fuel. The crew used a satellite phone to call a catholic priest in Rome before the batteries ran out. The priest alerted Italian authorities of the ship’s problem.

Then came the alleged encounter with the NATO aircraft carrier that filled the distressed passengers with hope, then horror. Abu Kurke said the ship drifted for ten days, the refugees succumbing to thirst and hunger one by one.

"We saved one bottle of water for the two babies, and kept feeding them even after their parents had passed," Kurke told the Guardian, "but after two days, the babies died too, because they were so small."

On April 10, the vessel finally landed on a beach in eastern Libya, near the city of Misrata. Security forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi detained the survivors and held them captive for four days before releasing them, according to the Guardian. Only nine of them survived the detention.

Date created : 2011-05-09

  • ITALY

    Lampedusa, a reluctant outpost in the storm

    Read more

COMMENT(S)