<m2m-eng> Survivor of migrant boat tragedy arrested in Netherlands
jo van der spek
jo at xs4all.nl
Fri Mar 30 18:46:40 CEST 2012
Abu Kurke Kebato, who was one of just nine people to survive two weeks
adrift in Mediterranean, set to be deported to Italy
One of the few survivors from a migrant boat tragedy that claimed 63
lives in the Mediterranean has been arrested by immigration police in
the Netherlands and is set to be deported from the country.
The detention of Abu Kurke Kebato, a 23-year-old Ethiopian, came just
hours after the European body charged with investigating the incident
called on EU member states to look kindly on asylum claims from those
who survived the tragedy.
Their dinghy was left drifting for two weeks in the sea despite European
authorities pinpointing the location of the vessel and distress calls
being sent out repeatedly to nearby ships.
Abu Kurke was among nine people who made it back to land alive from an
initial group of 72 that set off from Tripoli in an effort to reach
Europe in March last year. The boat was eventually washed back on to
Libyan shores. Amazingly he went on to launch another this time
successful voyage across the sea soon after the tragedy, arriving in
Italy before making his way to the Netherlands where he attempted to
settle with his wife.
On Thursday morning police acted on an expulsion order and removed the
couple from an asylum centre in the Dutch town of Baexem. Under the
"Dublin Convention" European states are permitted in some circumstances
to deport irregular migrants back to their port of landing, which in
this case would be Italy. Abu Kurke's lawyer, Marq Wijngaarden, said he
would be lodging appeals with the Dutch supreme court.
"It would also be possible to apply for an injunction from the European
court of human rights, but in theory the deportation could take place at
any time," explained Wijngaarden.
On Wednesday, only hours before his arrest, Abu Kurke told the Guardian
how relieved he was to be building a new life in Europe and said that he
was still traumatised by the events of last spring.
"I don't sleep, even now," said the refugee, who fled his native region
of Oromia in Ethiopia several years ago as a result of political
violence and went on to make a 20-day trek across the Sahara in an
effort to reach the North African coast. "My life has started again in
the Netherlands, but there is no sleep in it. Once you watch your
friends die, there is no sleep."
He said he was now seeing a psychologist in an effort to deal with the
memories and went on to condemn the military helicopter and naval vessel
that the survivors claim encountered their troubled boat but refused
their pleas for assistance. "These powers, they came and looked at us,
they saw us and they knew. They must face justice." Abu Kurke's phone
has now been taken away by the Dutch authorities.
In a cruel twist of fate, Abu Kurke's arrest took place on the same day
that a special committee of the Council of Europe the continent's
watchdog which oversees the European court of human rights adopted a
resolution recommending that "in view of the ordeal of the survivors,
member states use their humanitarian discretion to look favourably on
any claims for asylum and resettlement coming from these persons".
Speaking before news of Abu Kurke's detention was known, Tineke Strik,
the Dutch parliamentarian behind a nine-month inquiry into the tragedy,
said: "Hearing the testimony of these survivors really touches you deeply.
"Hearing what they have gone through over these 14 days: being among
corpses, cast adrift at sea, all rescue opportunities disappearing and
the knowledge that death could be their fate as well ... it's very hard
to imagine how that must feel."
At a press conference to launch the Council of Europe report, human
rights activists announced legal action would now be launched on behalf
of at least five of the survivors in an effort to hold those who ignored
the boat criminally responsible for their actions.
"There is no doubt that someone, somewhere, has criminal responsibility
for the deaths of these people," said Stéphane Maugendre, president of
the Paris-based Groupe d'Information et de Soutien des Immigrés [Group
for information and support of immigrants].
He went on to quote another survivor, Dain Haile Gebre, on what happened
when the migrant boat encountered the naval vessel: "Some people were
wearing civilian clothing, others were in military uniform. They took
photos of us and filmed us with cameras and portable phones.
"We took our dead people in our arms and showed them, asking for help.
Some of us drank seawater to make them understand that we needed
"It is clear a charge of 'not helping people in danger' is applicable,"
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Jo van der Spek
Stichting M2M. Migrant to Migrant
m2m at streamtime.org
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