🖕🤬 MPs rage as migrant shipwreck session descends into chaos – POLITICO

BRUSSELS — Tempers flared in the European Parliament on Tuesday when a Conservative lawmaker accused a socialist of flipping the middle finger during a session on a migrant shipwreck off the Italian coast.

In a hearing before Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee, the EU’s border defense agency Frontex and Italy’s coast guard dismissed accusations that they had not done enough to prevent the drowning of 94 migrants in a few hundred meters from the coast of Calabria, Italy, in February.

Frontex chief Hans Leijtens said he immediately informed Italian authorities of the existence of the migrant boat and provided them with details of its speed, location and infrared images, as is standard practice.

“Our aircraft continued surveillance until it had to return to base due to a fuel shortage,” Leijtens told EU lawmakers. The Frontex boss stressed that they could not issue an emergency alert as the migrant boat was not in danger at the time.

“If we know today what we knew, I don’t think we will do otherwise,” said Leijtens.

Italian Coastguard Commander Gianluca D’Agostino confirmed that the satellite images available to them did not warrant a rescue mission.

“The ship was sailing appropriately. And the sea was reasonable. He had a constant course and the wind was behind him,” he told the parliamentary committee.

Then things got really heated.

Tensions in the room escalated when Italian Conservative MPs defended the right-wing Rome government’s migration dossier against accusations by Juan Matias Gil, an official with the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières, who was also on the panel.

“He came here to get involved in politics and bring charges. It’s ridiculous for him to make these statements,” said Right-wing League Italian MEP Susanna Ceccardi, referring to Gil.

The session then descended into chaos as centre-right Italian MEP Alessandra Mussolini accused left-leaning lawmakers of mocking the victims of the sinking, and German socialist Birgit Sippel urged her colleagues to stop asking questions to allow more time for responses.

“It’s the Social Democrats,” an unnamed MEP exclaimed in response, while Czech lawmaker Tomáš Zdechovsky accused Sippel of giving his colleagues the middle finger.

“Do you think you can get away with this?” You should be before the ethics committee here. Calm down, colleague,” Zdechovsky chimed in.


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