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Tampa Incident Haunts EU

  • May 29th, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

eu-map-reduced.jpgAustralia’s “children overboard” affair and the Tampa incident have been brought up in Europe this week, in connection with a controversy over boat people in the Mediterranean Sea.

A spokesperson for the European Commission disclosed on Tuesday (29.5.07) that an intense legal review was being made to clarify maritime laws on the responsibility of ships’ captains to pick up people in distress, and of countries to let them be then put ashore.

The spokesperson said there had been concern about ambiguities in the law after the dispute between Australia and Norway, over 438 asylum seekers saved by the Norwegian ship Tampa in the Indian Ocean and refused permission to land at Christmas Island.

The European Commission has confirmed that it started intensified patrols in March and April, against clandestine shipments of people from Africa to Southern European beaches and ports, or to the Canary Islands.

New patrols are to be launched in the coming weeks.

Mounting concern over thousands of people trying to enter Europe illegally by sea, especially in the warmer months, has come to a head after the sinking of a boat in the Mediterranean and the failure of fishermen in the area to rescue the survivors.

The Italian navy picked them up but was refused permission to land them in Libya, where several such boatloads had departed.

A dispute has been going on over the incident between the governments of Italy and Libya.

In the case of the Tampa in 2001, people were eventually allowed off the Norwegian ship and taken to third countries which had agreed to accommodate them, and their claims for entry into Australia were investigated — most being successful.

At the time the Australian government endorsed claims that a video recording made on board an Australian warship showed boat people had thrown their children into the sea so they would all be picked up.

It was later established that children were not thrown overboard and that the video, which was unclear, showed something else taking place.

The European Union has recently proclaimed a two-parts policy on immigration, matching a toughening of action against illegal entry with active assistance for authorised migrants.