Refugee boat survivor arrested in Netherlands

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

One of the nine survivors of last year’s refugee boat tragedy, in which 63 refugees from Libya died, was arrested by the Dutch immigration police on Thursday morning. He is due to be deported to Italy, according to Dutch senator Tineke Strik.

The arrest of the 25-year-old Ethiopian Abu Kurke Kebato came only hours after a special committee of the Council of Europe investigating the incident had 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”.

At the time of his arrest Mr Kebato was staying with his wife at a refugee centre in the south-eastern village of Ter Apel. In accordance with European legislation, the Dutch immigration police want to send him back to his first port of entry, Italy.

Humanitarian discretion
Ms Strik, who was commissioned by the Council of Europe to investigate this refugee drama, thinks that Mr Kebato should be given permission to stay in the Netherlands on humanitarian grounds:

“He is traumatised and was sent back to Libya once before by Italy, where he ended up in prison. He also didn’t receive any medical care in Italy. After spending two weeks out on sea in the bright sunshine, his eyes are badly damaged. I think that, in this case, the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service should be lenient, even though it may have the law on its side.”

Sources: De Volkskrant, The Guardian