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.