Death of 63 migrants in the Mediterranean: Complaint in France holds the French military to account

One year after events that led to the deaths of 63 migrants in a boat in the waters off the coast of Libya, 4 survivors, with the support of a coalition of NGOs, filed a complaint in France concerning the responsibility of the French military for failing to assist persons in danger.

In March 2011, the chaos in Libya forced thousands of migrants to flee the country to escape violence. Amongst them were 72 people of Ethiopian, Eritrean, Nigerian, Ghanaian and Sudanese origin who boarded a dinghy bound for Italy during the early hours of 27 March. A few hours after their departure, a French patrol plane flew over their boat and informed the Italian coastguards of its location. The migrants’ voyage soon turned into a nightmare. They lacked fuel, food and drinking water and lost control of the boat. They managed to send an appeal for assistance by telephone that was picked up by Italian coastguards and passed on to boats in the area, indicating their location. These distress calls were repeated every 4 hours for 10 days. Military forces with sophisticated equipment were present in Libyan waters at the time. On two occasions, helicopters flew over the migrants’ boat. One of them even dropped a few bottles of water and biscuits for the passengers before flying off again. (more on