Tag Archives: HMCS Charlottetown

Update Regarding PACE Investigation into Migrant Deaths in the Mediterranean

I have sought additional information from NATO and PACE regarding the 29 November hearing held in Paris by the PACE Migration Committee regarding the deaths of boat people in the Mediterranean.  I was informed by a PACE official that the minutes of the 29 November hearing will be released during or after the Committee’s next scheduled meeting which will take place in late January 2012.

In my previous post on this topic I incorrectly said that NATO officials attended the 29 November hearing.  Instead Ms Strik, the Committee’s rapporteur, met with a senior NATO official in Brussels on 28 November.  A NATO official informed me that “during the meeting [with Ms Strik], NATO offered to look into new details of the 28 March 2011 incident which were provided to NATO by Ms Strik. This process is ongoing and we will reply to the Council of Europe in due course.”

The NATO official reiterated to me that NATO ships were “fully aware of their responsibilities” to respond to vessels in distress and noted that during Operation Unified Protector “NATO ships have directly assisted in the rescue of more than 600 people in distress at sea.”  The official provided information about two incidents which have previously been reported on:

  • “[O]n 26 March 2011, NATO ships responded to information that two migrant ships with over 500 people on board were in distress, which were then provided direct assistance by the Italian authorities. That included a NATO ship using its helicopter to airlift two women and a newborn child to medical help”; and
  • “On 10 July 2011, a NATO ship responded to a vessel in distress approximately 75 miles off the coast of Libya. The NATO vessel provided medical support, food and offered mechanical assistance to the distressed migrants. In response to a deterioration of the humanitarian situation onboard, the 114 migrants were transferred onto the NATO ship in accordance with the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) protocol and delivered to safety in Tunisia.”

The reference to the 26 March incident presumably relates in part to the Canadian warship, HMCS Charlottetown, which made contact with a disabled migrant boat carrying over 250 migrants on 25 March.  The Charlottetown provided food, waters, and repairs to the migrant boat and escorted it until 26 March when the Italian Coast Guard arrived on scene.  As far as I can tell from news reports from the time of this incident, there was only one migrant boat involved.   NATO’s current statement indicates there was a second migrant boat encountered by NATO at this time.

Click here and here for my previous posts on the March 2011 incident.

The 10 July incident relates to the rescue of over 100 migrants by the Spanish Navy frigate, the Almirante Juan de Borbón.  The rescued migrants remained onboard the Spanish frigate for six days after Malta and Italy refused to permit the NATO ship to enter port to disembark the rescued migrants.  The migrants were transferred to a Tunisian navy ship on 16 July and presumably then taken to Tunisia.

Click here and here for my previous posts on the July 2011 incident.

Neither of these two incidents relates to the events that occurred between 25 March and 10 April 2011 when a disabled migrant boat drifted for days during which time approximately 60 persons died.  Survivors from the migrant boat reported that at various times military ships and helicopters ignored their requests for assistance.  The Guardian reported extensively on this subject and the PACE Committee has been seeking information from NATO about this particular incident.

Click here and here for Guardian articles.

Click here for my last post of the PACE 29 Nov. hearing.

HMCS Charlottetown and migrant boat 25 March 2011.

Photo Credit: Lt(N) Michael McWhinnie, Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces

Spanish frigate Almirante Juan de Borbón rescuing migrant boat on 10 July 2011 and transferring migrants to Tunisian navy vessel on 16 July 2011.

Photo Credit: Ministerio de Defensa de España (mde.es)

Photo Credit: Ministerio de Defensa de España (mde.es)


Filed under Council of Europe, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Tunisia

NATO Denies It Failed to Respond to Migrant Boat in Distress

NATO said yesterday that Italian authorities never directly requested assistance from NATO in regard to the disabled migrant boat discovered earlier in the week by a Cypriot tug boat.  NATO spokespersons said while NATO was informed that the migrant boat was in distress, Italian authorities also informed NATO that Italian patrol boats and a rescue helicopter were responding to the situation.  NATO spokesperson Carmen Romero said NATO had a history of responding to emergency situations and pointed by way of example to NATO’s response on 26 March to two migrant boats in distress.   A Canadian naval ship under NATO command in March rendered assistance to two migrant boats but, unlike the incident last month when a Spanish ship under NATO command rescued 100 migrants and was unable to offload the migrants for five days, the Canadian ship did not take the migrants on board.

Click here (EN), here (IT) and here (IT) for articles.

Click here and here for previous posts on topic.

Click here for previous post about 11 July incident.

Click here and here for previous posts about the 26 March incident.

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Filed under Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News

NATO Warships Defend Against Small Boat Attack on Misrata

From a NATO press statement: “Naples, Italy. In the early hours of Thursday 12 May 2011, while conducting Embargo patrols in the waters off the coast of Libya, NATO warships participated in a coordinated defence against a small boat attack threatening the port city of Misrata.  Beginning at approximately 2 a.m. the Canadian Frigate HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN acting in concert with the British Destroyer HMS LIVERPOOL and supported by a French warship not under NATO Command, thwarted an attack on the port of Misrata by a number of fast small boats.  The boats were forced to abandon their attack and regime forces ashore covered their retreat with artillery and anti-aircraft canon fire directed towards the allied warships….”

Click here for full statement.

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Filed under Libya, Mediterranean, News

NATO Policy Regarding Migrant Boats Leaving Libya

I posed several questions to NATO Maritime Command Naples asking what NATO’s policy is in regard to encounters between NATO ships and migrant boats leaving Libya.  NATO Maritime Command Naples is responsible for enforcing the maritime embargo of Libya known as Operation Unified Protector.  I also asked for more information about the encounter on 25-26 March between the Canadian navy ship, HMCS Charlottetown, and what was probably the first recent migrant boat from Libya.  This particular migrant boat was subsequently taken to Linosa by the Italian Coast Guard.

Today’s response from NATO’s public affairs office is fairly straightforward and states that NATO ships will respond to vessels or persons in distress.  The response suggests that NATO ships will otherwise not interfere with the passage of migrant boats unless a boat is suspected of carrying arms or mercenaries.  Presumably NATO would also seek to stop and board migrant vessels suspected of carrying any persons of particular interest to NATO, e.g. Libyan officials.

Here are my questions and the responses from the Public Affairs Office at NATO Maritime Command Naples:

Q:  Does Operation Unified Protector have plans or procedures in place regarding what to do in the situation where a NATO vessel encounters a boat or inflatable that is carrying irregular migrants or asylum seekers out of Libya and attempting to reach another country, e.g. Italy or Malta?

NATO:  Operation Unified Protector is part of the broad international effort to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack. The maritime portion of the operation foresees NATO warships and aircraft patrolling the approaches to Libyan territorial waters to reduce the flow of arms, related material and mercenaries to Libya as called for in UN Security Council Resolution 1973. Issues of migration or asylum seekers are not within the mandate of this specific NATO operation.

Q:  If there are plans or procedures for encounters with migrant boats, what do they provide for?

NATO:  A master of a ship at sea which is in a position to be able to provide assistance on receiving information from any source that persons are in distress at sea, is bound to proceed with all speed to their assistance, if possible informing them or the search and rescue service that the ship is doing so. This obligation to provide assistance applies regardless of the nationality or status of such persons or the circumstances in which they are found.

Q:  Additionally, can you provide details regarding what HMCS Charlottetown did on/about 26 March when it encountered a migrant boat carrying approximately 350 African migrants from Libya?  Did HMCS Charlottetown request assistance in connection with this encounter from the Italian Coast Guard or Navy or from Frontex?  What assistance, if any, was provided to the migrant boat?

NATO:  On 25 and 26 of March 2011, NATO ships patrolling in International Waters attended a boat to ensure there was not a case of Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Assistance was offered in the form of technical expertise and supplies. NATO ships monitored the situation constantly throughout the stated period. For action taken by Italy with regard to this event we recommend you contact the appropriate authorities.

Q:  Does NATO anticipate that there may at some point be large numbers of non-Libyans or Libyans attempting to leave Libya by sea?

NATO:  We do not feel that we can speculate on this matter.

Click here for link to NATO Maritime Command Naples and here for link to Operation Unified Protector.


Filed under Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News

Boat With 350 African Migrants from Libya Receives Assistance from Canadian Navy Ship

A boat carrying approximately 350 African migrants or asylum seekers from Libya has been intercepted and is being diverted to the Italian island of Linosa between Malta and Lampedusa.  There have been reports over the past several days that the migrant boat was at sea.  A Canadian navy ship, probably the frigate HMCS Charlottetown, first intercepted and boarded the migrant boat to determine whether the passengers required immediate rescue or not and to provide a pump.  The migrant boat was allowed to proceed.  An Italian navy helicopter later rescued a woman who gave birth on the boat.  The woman, the newborn baby, the father, and a second pregnant woman were removed from the migrant boat and taken to hospitals on Lampedusa and Sicily.  The Italian navy said that the migrant boat will be taken to Linosa rather than Lampedusa.  UNHCR spokeswoman Laura Boldrini is quoted by AFP as saying that “[t]his is the first boat coming from Libya with people fleeing the military escalation, the vendettas and the retaliation attacks and that “the people on board the boat required ‘international protection’”.  AFP also reported that “Mussie Zerai, an Eritrean Catholic priest in Italy who has been in direct contact with the vessel via a satellite phone, said conditions on the boat were extremely difficult with around 10 children and 20 women on board.  He said the people were mostly Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalians.”  Zerai also “said four or five other boats carrying African migrants had … left Libyan shores carrying around 1,000 people.”

Click here (EN) and here (IT) for articles.


Filed under Eritrea, Ethiopia, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Somalia, UNHCR