Libya: Italy to call on Nato to come to rescue of boat people
last update: August 05, 12:59
Rome, 5 Aug. (AKI) - Italy will ask Nato to expand its mission in Libya to include aiding people fleeing the country because of the civil war, the Italian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.
The Italian coast guard late Thursday came to the aid of a stalled boat transporting around 300 migrants 90 miles from the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa. According to reports, Nato ignored Italy's request that the military alliance rescue the vessel.
Some migrants claims that "dozens and dozens" of people died aboard the boat. The coast guard says it found one body aboard none in the water.
Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini has asked his country ambassador to Nato to discuss the possibility expansion of the mandate to safeguard the Libyan people...to be also considered the rescue of those who for bellicose reasons are forced to flee in boats putting their personal safety at risk," the statement said.
"We're tired of seeing the suffering of thousands of people who continue to arrive here," said Lampedusa mayor Bernardino De Rubeis on Friday. "But we're also tired of seeing the deaths of hundreds of refugees."
The Italian island of Lampedusa - located closer to Tunisia than Italy - has been the primary entry point in Europe for tens of thousands of people arriving aboard boats from Northern Africa since uprisings spread throughout much of the Arab world early this year.
The Italian coast guard on 31 July found the bodies of 25 sub-Saharan African men in the hold of a boat the left Libya with hundreds of migrants aboard. The men may have died of asphyxiation from gas coming from the boat's motor but police say two bodies show signs of dying succumbing to wounds suffered from a beating.
Nato was the object of widespread criticism in May when the the organisation's ships reportedly ignored SOS messages from a boat adrift in the Mediterranean with scores of African migrants on board, 61 of whom died of hunger and thirst, including babies.
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