The Forgotten Shipwreck Newsnight

The Forgotten Shipwreck

With Evan Davis. The full story of the shipwreck in April that killed over 500 migrants in the Mediterranean. Plus Oliver Letwin on Brexit, the PISA tables and Twitter on trial.

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On one April night this year, hundreds of migrants drowned


in the Mediterranean as a trawler overloaded with human


The story of what happened that night has not been told, until now.


As far as we can tell, there has been no official investigation into


the sinking of the ship this spring in the eastern Mediterranean.


There are survivors living in refugee centres


And that evidence points to not just mass


killing, but something darker than that.


Also tonight, we are learning more about the Prime


People talk about the sort of Brexit that there is going to be.


Actually, we want a red, white and blue Brexit.


We really are learning more about it.


And we have a former Brexit Secretary to offer his opinions.


Kellyanne, I just retweeted the best tweet.


I mean, wow, what a great, smart tweet.


What does the Twitter corporation think about Trump?


He's been able to share that kind of authentic nature on Twitter


in a way that a lot of politicians maybe haven't done so in the past,


News has often reached us over the last couple of years,


of migrants drowning in large numbers in the Mediterranean.


Their overloaded boats toppling over at the slightest disturbance.


Who could forget the picture of Aylan Kurdi that brought


The emotions that most of us have felt at these heart-rending


tragedies probably include sadness, distress, motivation to help,


Tonight, we have a story to make you angry.


The tale of what we believe to be the biggest migrant shipwreck


of 2016 and the criminal behaviour that caused needless deaths.


Over 500 people are believed to have died on one night in April,


which is about twice the entire number of people who've been killed


in passenger airline crashes anywhere in the world this year.


But those deaths in the Mediterranean cannot really


be called an accident, and there has been no investigation


Except one, John Sweeney, with our producer James Clayton


and in conjunction with Reuters, decided to look at the


In the 21st-century, the Mediterranean Sea is fast becoming a


mass grave. This year so far, 4700 people have drowned on the open sea.


Very few sinkings have been properly investigated. Until now. What we


believe is the worst sinking of 2016 Took Place at night at sea. There is


no footage. We have hurt to build a picture from the survivors scattered


across Europe. It is a story of grief. Frustration. You think the


authorities have done enough to investigate this tragedy? No.


Accusations of murder. Do you think this is murder? Yes, this is murder.


An international inaction. And there has been no investigation worthy of


the game, are you comfortable with that? Not really, no. This is the


story of the forgotten shipwreck. On April the 16th this year, a small


fishing boat was picked up off the Greek coast. On 37 survivors. Every


night I'm not sleeping because I remember the boat accident. They


said they had come from Libya, and so did the UNHCR. Perhaps as many as


500 people drowned, a few days ago, we do not know exactly when. When a


large ship went down between Libya and Italy. But when Stephen Gray


from Reuters talked to survivors he started to question the official


version. There was their language, the way they were holding back about


details, the way they were vague about certain things. They had all


apparently lost their phones and could not remember who for example


they paid money to to get on this voyage. The dates they would giving


did not add up. The details of how they apparently simply drifted from


the scene of this disaster off the coast of Libya to a rescue point


halfway between Greece and Italy, that did not seem to me to add up.


Together with Reuters, Newsnight set out to find out what really


happened. This man is one of the survivors. He had hoped to build a


new life in Europe with his wife and baby girl. His wife and daughter and


himself and 200 other migrants were loaded off a small fishing feeder


boat onto a deep sea trawler, which would take them across the


Mediterranean to Italy but the trawler was already crammed with 300


people. These two were on the top deck of


the trawler when it capsized. They made it to France.


Overloaded boats can sync all too easily. At least this boat capsized


in daylight when migrants crowded to one side after spotting an Italian


naval ship. The trawler in our story sank at night. The physics of the


simpering is simple. 500 people weighing roughly ten tonnes. If ten


tonnes of cargo ship suddenly, a boat can capsize.


He was the last person that this man was able to say. How many were in


the water when the feeder boat left? Muaz is housed in a refugee centre.


He is one of the lucky ones. Out of almost 100 in the water, almost all


were abandoned. As far as we can tell there has been no official


investigation into the sinking of this ship in the eastern


Mediterranean. But the evidence is available. There are survivors


living in refugee centres like this one behind me and the evidence


points to not just mass killing, but something darker than that. Murder.


There is the crucial fact that everybody has overlooked, an error


that has prevented relatives of the dead getting any justice. The


survivors told everyone they came from Libya, but that was alive, the


boat left not from Libya, but here, in Egypt. Was the story true?


Libya is in chaos, but Egypt is firmly under the heel of its strong


man president, so there is a big question. What is Egypt doing to


police its people smugglers? Not much, it seems. The migrants bought


their tickets in Cairo from brokers. 500 people on the boat, many at


$2000 each. That could be as much as $1 million gross. Even after


expenses, the smugglers are making a killing. I travelled to a village in


the Nile delta where nine boys on the boat came from. Too many people


in Europe, a migrant boat sinking may seem like another grim


statistic. For this woman, it was far, far worse than that. The list


of the missing from her village starts with her own son.


When you hear about these mass sinkings, you hear about Libya, not


Egypt. But our investigation has shown that as many as 150 Egyptians


may have died in this tragedy. The Egyptian authorities have not


investigated, so you might well ask, why is that? Have the Egyptians


Egyptian authorities got something to hide?


Because there has been no full enquiry, she believes that her son


may still be alive. This is what we understand of the doomed voyage.


Most migrants leave the beach at Alexandria at night in small boats


like these. They are picked up by the smugglers' feeder boat which


sails west to meet the trawler in international waters. It is when the


feeder boat transfers the human cargo to the trawler that disaster


strikes. Whilst at sea, we believe, around 190 Somalis, 150 Ethiopians


and 160 Egyptians and others from Sudan and Eritrea, roughly 500


people in all. This is Miami Beach, Alexandria, where some of the


survivors said their voyage started. Over there, that place with a little


shack, that is a military post. The idea that hundreds of migrants could


leave this place in a police state like Egypt without being seen? Well,


that's a little far-fetched. an in the evidence linking the


disaster to two smugglers comes from this man. He is the father of an


Egyptian victim. He went to the police and they carried out a


curious investigation which concluded there had been no


manslaughter or murder, but only financial fraud. The police have


said this is a fraud case. Is that right?


Do you think the authorities have done enough to investigate this


tragedy? The alleged leaders of the smuggling


gangs are known by their nicknames, the doctor. Abdul filmed one of the


alleged smugglers talking. He claims that the man was sent by the other


man. We wanted to ask this man, Al-Bougy,


about his alleged role in the sinking. But no one was in. We were


told that he was on the run. The alleged smuggler known as the doctor


did not return calls made by our investigation. Back in Cairo, we set


out to track down a Somali broker and we wanted to challenge him about


his role in the loss of so many lives. But the secret police had


other ideas. We tried to interview the Somali broker and we have been


stopped by the secret police. We are not free to leave. We are waiting


for a police car and they will speak to us some more. We are now being


escorted to the police station. Isn't that nice? , glee, the


Egyptian authorities seemed keener on preventing journalism that matter


journalism than people smuggling. As a result, the mass drownings


continue. In September, another overloaded vessel sank off the coast


of Egypt but this time so close to the sure that the authorities were


compelled to act. 200 people drowned. Had the April tragedy been


properly investigated, this second mass loss of life could perhaps have


been avoided. In Egypt, a spokesperson for the Minister of


justice said if the occurrence of such a crime is proven, Egypt


certainly will not hesitate to conduct the necessary investigations


to uncover it and arrest the perpetrators and bring them to


justice. But Egypt is not alone. Greece, the country where the


survivors landed, has not investigated. No official body,


national or multinational, has held anyone to account for the deaths or


even opened an enquiry into the shipwreck. As well as the tragic


loss of life, you're's own security is being undermined. I went to The


Hague to ask the head of the European police agency why it had


failed. We believe 500 people died in this, the biggest mass drowning


of 20 16th and so far there has been no investigation worthy of the name.


You comfortable with that? Not really. I think this is an


humanitarian disaster. The absence of clear answers in this case, to be


fair to the authorities involved, reflect the difficulty in getting to


the heart of the story, conflicting information from the survivors and


elsewhere and there are some significant investigative problems


in identifying who is criminally responsible. It is an uncomfortable


situation. Europol has not done an investigation because no one has


complained to you. You are powerless, due? Know, when it is


referred to us, we can institute a full range of intelligence sharing


facilities that we have at Europol and the way that we have used in


many cases to hunt down and successfully target these people


smuggling organisations. In this case, there has been good work done


in your investigation and I am happy and I would like to receive the file


that you have found and we will look at it again and we will take it to


the Greek authorities and see if there is more that we can do. If


these mass sinkings are not thoroughly investigated, then three


things will continue to happen. The first is that the smugglers will


continue to get richer, the second is that Europe will not be able to


put pressure on the host countries like here in Egypt and the third,


worst of all, is that thousands of people will continue to drown. And


for the people who have lost loved ones, no investigation means grief


without end. We did ask the Egyptian government


for an interview, but they declined. Though the Justice Department


told our investigation that they have just passed new laws


against illegal migration and are determined to take


action against smugglers. You can watch the Our World


documentary on John Sweeney's investigation on the News Channel


this Sunday at 21:30, And John Sweeney and Stephen Grey


from Reuters will be taking your questions


on their investigation. That's tomorrow at 1pm on the BBC


Newsnight Facebook page. It may be coming out


in dribs and drabs, but the government is feeding us


more about the approach We have some fairly


bland-sounding propositions - in today's version the Prime


Minister said we are looking And you thought it was magenta


that we were seeking. But slogans aside, for anyone


listening to the objectives that have been set out in public of late,


a relatively full picture And to add to that,


the government also today conceded that it will publicly set


out its plan, before The flurry of Brexit chatter


was prompted by two things: the fact that Labour have tabled a Commons


motion on it tomorrow, urging And secondly, leading


Brexit negotiations for the European Commission,


said that in effect we'll have 18 months to sort it out,


and that we won't as good deal Our political editor


Nick Watt is with me. On the domestic politics, Labour put


down a motion, the Tories have amended it, who has won this little


spat? It is a score draw all around, that averted a Tory rebellion and


allows all sides to say they are claiming victory. A number of


pro-European Tories were going to vote with Labour because Labour had


used very colourful language to draw up a motion which would require the


government to publish its Brexit plan before it triggers those


Article 50 manoeuvres. The government said we will accept that


Labour motion, but we will tackle on our own little bit that says that


the government should be allowed to trigger Article 50 by its deadline


of the end of March. I have learned this evening that it is highly


likely that Labour is going to accept that motion as amended and


will claim victory on two grounds, in the first place it will say thank


you very much for accepting our demand that you publish your plans


before you trigger Article 50. I think when we see those plans, they


will be very much on the broad principle, of that 31-macro. The


second thing, Labour will say we have no problem in saying that


Article 50 should be triggered by the end of March because we agree


with that. Everyone is converging, except potentially the Europeans.


They have been setting out parameters, what has been the


reaction? There was some surprise in Downing Street when it was said that


if Theresa May follows her timetable then those negotiations will have to


be concluded by October, 2018 and the reason for that is to have it


fully ratified and signed and sealed by the time of the European


Parliamentary elections in the spring of 2019. There was less


surprise when he said that there could be no cherry picking and no


favourable axis to the single market unless you accept the full freedoms.


What the intervention showed was that once Article 50 is triggered in


a legal sense, the UK has very few cards to play. But the British


Government's view is once we have the French and German elections out


of the way by this time next year, we will be looking towards a


political deal where EU leaders will not want to leave the UK out in the


cold. Thank you. Joining me now is Oliver Lachlan, former Cabinet


Office minister who was briefly in charge of Brexit before Theresa May


became Prime Minister. I do not understand, the government have


announced something, we are going to be given the plan before Article 50,


why did they wait for a Labour motion before making the


announcement? There was no doubt that the government would publish


some kind of paper before it started negotiating. I am not sure that it


is going to tell us anything we do not know already and I do think it


should. When they say publish a plan, is that like three tweets or


400 pages of a White Paper? How do I know? I am sure that Whitehall will


create something mellifluous and serious. I very much doubt and I


hope that it won't say anything very material that has not been said


already. We are clear what the outlines are, we are leaving, we are


leaving the single market, we are going to have control over our own


migration. If you want that, it implies you're the single market. We


will be able to negotiate our own free trade deals with the rest of


the word. That is pretty clear. You have a whole pile of very


nitty-gritty bits of negotiating on how you deal with European arrest


warrant and information exchange and you come to the big issue about


trading and the truth is there is no one alive today who knows what kind


of trading relationship we will end up with. You can't possibly declare


a plan. The objective is clear, we want as much trade as possible.


What's amazing is that you have spelt out, out of the customs union


and the single market, free-trade deals with other countries, you have


spelt out so much more clearly than any member of the government, why is


that? Actually I don't think that is true. I have an unusual habit of


reading what is produced. It has been said or implied. I thank you


can infer all that. When Theresa May is asked a perfectly straightforward


question, is a possible we will be making payments to the EU, everyone


knows the answer is yes, David Davis has said that, she says, we want a


Red, White and Blue Brexit. Why can she say yes, we would not like to


make payments, but it could be inevitable? You are much clearer


than she is or David Davis 's or Boris Johnson is, much clearer. On


the question of payments, you don't want to pay an indefinite amount,


but there are some things it would be worth paying some amounts for,


particularly access to the sale of stocks and bonds and things by


financial institutions in Britain. If we were not able to do that, we


might lose a lot of investment in the City. I think it is very wise of


the Prime Minister not to get pinned down on these things because she did


not want to start fighting now and it will be quite a difficult


domestic political issue, in advance of knowing what she does or does not


have to give away. She doesn't want to get into a position of someone


asking how much will we pay? You don't want to pay more than you need


to. I think her whole instinct is to keep her cards close to her chest


and I think she is right to do that and I think it is crazy for everyone


else to demand more. A Red, White and Blue Brexit is simply a stall,


just to be quite clear? It's a way of saying we will get the best deal


that we can. That is what you ask a sensible Prime Minister to get for


this country. If we have a plan and we know what we want, why are we


delaying? Why don't we just invoke Article 50? White Wade four months


until March. As you may know, I teamed up with some other colleagues


to suggest we should not appeal to the Supreme Court. Slightly tricky


thing to do, who knows what they will decide? I thought we could put


a bill to Parliament, I think it is abundantly clear, I have been on


programmes with John McDonnell and he was clear that Labour would vote


for Article 50 and I cannot see any reason why we should not get a bill


very quickly through Parliament and get a move on. There is something


going on, which of course is easy for you and quite difficult inside


Whitehall, there is a huge wealth of detail about a whole series of


things which are not really integral to the issues we're talking about


but have to be sorted out. What do you do about the Information


Systems? How you deal with the kinds of cooperation on security and


intelligence and policing... In a restricted time when I dealt


with this I could see the ghastly prospect of those details.


You would rather they had not gone to the Supreme Court because it


delays everything and there is a risk the Supreme Court will


potentially go further than the High Court in giving Parliament or


devolved assemblies rights. I am worried about uncharted waters. If


you get 11 Supreme Court judges who are very intelligent and serious


people, the attacks on the judiciary from some quarters were despicable


and totally wrong. The judges try to do their job and judge the law. In


this area of the law is indistinct, we do not know what our constitution


is, it is not written, and we ought to have one. Because we do not have


a written constitution, if you ask 11th learn to people what is the


Constitution? You may find out things you do not want to know and I


have no idea what the result will be but I fear there may be limits on


the prerogative in ways that limit future governments from taking


actions that would be sensible and I don't think we need to have that but


we are in the middle of the trial so it will happen. Thanks.


Every three years, the OECD, an international, official body,


publishes the results of its Pisa tests.


they are meant to be internationally comparable tests


Ministers from well-performing countries open their results


envelope, look aghast for a moment, and then leap in the air with joy.


Actually, it doens't work like that but the Pisa league tables often


spark national panics, because half the countries


The results came out today and our policy editor Chris Cook has


The Pisa tests are like in -- inkblot tests with people seeing


different patterns. These are sacked by students and 72 jurisdictions.


What should you see in Pisa? Pisa is trying to test people'sreal-world


problem-solving skills so it is giving questions about being in a


supermarket and you see articles priced in different ways. What it


does not test is the subject specific content knowledge you study


in schools. There are not questions on the periodic table for example.


There are tests that measured knowledge and you get similar


patterns of knowledge for broke so it looks like whatever Pisa is


measuring is something real. This year it is focused on science, a


topic where Britain does well and the UK average beats the OECD


average. We are in a packed with Germany, Netherlands, Australia,


Germany and Korea. We are behind the leaders Canada, Estonia, Finland and


Japan, and in front, Singapore. What can we learn from the countries that


beat us? First some of this is about attitude and culture. Culture is


important. An example is a study by a professor and colleagues looking


at Canadian and Japanese students and how they respond to failure.


Where Japanese students thought they had failed they were motivated to


work harder compared to Canadian students, who I imagine more similar


to British students and are demotivated by failure. Different


ways of thinking about success and how you get there. There are things


we could change more easily. There is very little time to do anything


else than teaching. That has been the price force the -- for small


classes. East Asia, those teachers would teach a larger class but it


leaves the more room to advance their careers to prepare lessons, to


work with other teachers. It is not about the student staff ratio, which


is pretty much fine in England. There are parts of the results that


should concern Britain. While we are better at science, we are only at


the OECD average in reading and maths. We have not really improved


in the last ten years. Finally, when you look at the UK average it hides


important disparities between the performances of the four home


nations. England is on 512 points for science, 19 above the OECD


average. It puts it six months of school time ahead of Northern


Ireland, and Scotland, which is four points up. But England is the best


part of the year ahead of Wales, eight points below the OECD average


in that gap is driven by the fact that middle-class and rich people in


particular in Wales are doing very poorly. The results may matter more


elsewhere in the UK. The Scottish education minister is pondering


English sounding reforms. The report from the Pisa analysis is


uncomfortable reading and we should recognise that. There has been


stability in maths performance but a fall in science and reading in


Scotland. The clearest policy prescription was aimed at England


and its flirtation with new grammar schools. At the School of witchcraft


and wizardry, Harry Potter and classmates were very... As they


arrived they were sorted into houses. An early sorting might be


appropriate for students of magic but does not work in the real world.


As it happens, English schools are probably more selective than you


think because of their unusual love for setting and streaming. You see


an interesting pattern for England. The school system is one of the


least selective across OECD countries but once you move inside


schools, England is one of the most stratified. A lot of selection takes


place within classes within schools and that is more difficult to deal


with. Our governments should at least agree they can see one thing


in the results. Things are not where we would like them to be.


Donald Trump tweeted today, as he does.


He said "Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One


for future presidents, but costs are out of control,


One aerospace analyst said the tweet was "completely nonsensical


But it's very difficult to adjudicate on complicated program


management and military requirements questions with Twitter


I tell you all this, not to talk about Trump,


It's had a tough time of late, fighting for relevance as other


I met up with Rob Owers this afternoon, he is one


of the company's most senior people in the UK.


We sat in the library at the Twitter office,


which conspicuously seemed to have hardly any books.


I suggested to Mr Owers, he must be pleased that Donald Trump


has kept Twitter in the public eye this year.


I think Donald Trump's my use of the platform has been something


that has obviously driven a lot of attention.


We've seen him take to Twitter to share his opinions,


to be very candid, in a way that I suppose he's been able to share


that authentic nature on Twitter in the way that a lot of politicians


maybe haven't done so in the past at such a level.


The kind of things he's been saying in rallies to his supporters around


the country he is now saying via his Twitter feed


A big cohort of our user base, and early adopters were of course


journalists, and journalists are jumping on this every time


he tweets, of course, to say, let's fact check this,


let's look at it, let's see what the context is,


the meaning behind it, that kind of thing.


And also it's sparking debate from our users.


I mean, in what sort of way, for someone who's not on Twitter,


would you say you would have consumed the Brexit referendum?


Every year we look at the top trends that are on Twitter.


Last year, it was very much around movements that had sprung up,


where people were trying to give a voice to the voiceless.


Things like Black Lies Matter, Home To Vote, Refugees Welcome.


2016 was a year of huge, seismic live events,


so the US election, Brexit, as you just talked about.


And what we've seen is where people have come to our platform


They are coming onto Twitter and they are seeing both


A very interesting question and a sort of big issue


for our society is this one of tribes and a very divided country


Howling around their same views with their same chums,


Are there people who are basically being fed the same old diet


We always encourage people on Twitter to follow people


from both sides of an argument, to follow people you agree with


But definitely when it comes to this kind of filter bubble argument


that is often labelled at Twitter, I think that absolutely wrong


on a number of levels, particularly around the fact


Twitter, the hashtag is where Twitter originated


That allows people to tap on something and to see tweets


You are not going to see it filtered by one side or the other.


Also, we don't have an interest here at Twitter in having


any kind of algorithm that is going to affect,


for you, how you see different types of content.


We are not going to keep resurfacing again and again a certain type


of content based on how you have interacted with it before.


In the same way that maybe there were filter


bubbles 20 years ago, 30 years ago, down to


the newspaper you read or the TV channel you used to watch.


Essentially, there are two ways of constructing a timeline.


Via a computer it will direct stuff to me that it thinks I am


Yours is more or less chronology of the people


I wonder whether you still think the chronology works.


The chronology for us is really vital because people come to Twitter


to just discover what is happening in the world right now


Now we're much more about news then we are about social media.


We move from social media part of the App Store


and the Google Place store into the news area in both of those


and I think that gives an indication of where we see ourselves.


One interesting aspect of this year of such interesting politics


is people have said, don't use Twitter to judge what's


I am guessing most of the tweets on Brexit were for Remain?


On Brexit, there were definitely more tweets about Leave,


talking about Leave than there were about Remain.


But if you looked at the individual accounts that were tweeting


about Leave or Remain, it was almost exactly 50-50,


which is pretty much how it turned out in the referendum result


Fake news stories have become an issue.


Is Twitter the right company to start trying to decide this


point needs to be removed because it is the spreading


We are definitely not in the business of policing


the content to that extent in terms of deciding what is true


When it comes to journalism, that is not what Twitter's about.


We take the issue extremely seriously.


How do you take it seriously, other than to say, to flag up


stories that you don't think are true?


From the start we have always verified journalists and real news


networks to make it clear from when you see the tweet


And that is something we have done for years.


We have also recently partnered with a group called


the First Draft News Coalition and they are a group of news


organisations and academics who are coming together to get these


meaty topics around news at the moment and to look


at solutions and ways we can work together so it is not tech companies


policing journalism, and we can find a way to make it


clear for users what is real, what isn't real, or where


That is all we have time for. We will watch the debate in Parliament


about Brexit tomorrow and I will be back in this chair tomorrow evening.


Good night. We are in for some mild weather,


certainly a change to what we have been used to in the last couple of


weeks. The wind is coming in from the south and it will be


particularly mild. If you


More than 500 people died in a migrant shipwreck in April. It is believed to be the single sinking of a migrant boat in 2016, but no one ever investigated. After months of research in collaboration with Reuters, BBC Newsnight's John Sweeney reports on the untold story of what happened that dark night off the coast of Egypt.

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