Malta closes its ports on 265 migrants, some rescued in SAR zone

The migrants will instead be taken to a Sicilian port after being rescued en route in the Mediterranean between New Year's Eve and January 2

A group of 265 migrants, 96 of which were rescued in Malta’s Search-And-Rescue zone, will be taken to Sicily after Maltese authorities allegedly ignored distress calls, according to the NGO Open Arms.

Last Saturday an Open Arms rescue ship rescued 97 migrants trying to cross to Europe from Libya.  The vessel was informed of the situation by Alarm Phone, an NGO providing hotline support for people crossing the external borders of Europe.

Alarm Phone said that the Rescue Coordination Centre of Malta wasn’t picking up calls, and at times hanging up the phone immediately without answering.

The Open Arms vessel was already carrying 169 people from a previous rescue mission in Libya’s SAR zone on New Year’s Eve.

Between the two rescue missions, 265 migrants were left stranded without a safe port to disembark at.

After making a port request to Maltese and Italian authorities, the migrants are heading towards Porto Empedocle in Sicily.

Oscar Camps, founder of the Open Arms NGO, posted the above video on Twitter yesterday showing the conditions on board. “Conditions on deck deteriorate rapidly due to bad weather. This same situation in a boat would result in certain death,” he wrote.