Nato hands over rescued migrants to Tunisian frigate

UPDATE 3 | More than 100 refugees fleeing Libya that were rescued by a Spanish warship seven days ago, have been transferred onto a Tunisian frigate and have been taken to Tunisia.

Spanish warship 'Almirante Juan de Borbon' remained outside Maltese territorial waters throughout the night this morning recieved orders to head to Tunisia where an agreement has been reached with the government to accept the migrants and take them in to the Dehiba Refugee camp.

The 111 refugees, namely Ghanians, Tunisian and Libyans were rescued last Sunday  some 141 miles off Malta after they were found drifting.

According to the Maltese government, the Tunisian navy met the Spanish warship outside the Tunisian territorial waters and took on the migrants.

Yesterday, the Tunisian government accepted three migrants for hospitalisation and were taken off the Spanish ship by helicopter.

"The Government of Malta thanks all parties directly involved in the logical conclusion to this search and rescue operation," the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement.

The matter has deeply embarrassed NATO and disrupted Operation Unified Protector off the Libyan coast, as naval assets involved in the mess had to be redeployed and placed far from their operational zone.

The Spanish government said that NATO "did not instruct" the Almirante Juan de Borbon to sail towards Malta, causing further embarrassment to the alliance.

Contacted in Brussels, a NATO spokesman told MaltaToday that the 'Almirante Juan de Borbon' remains under NATO command, however it has been 'dispensed' from operations connected to enforcing a naval embargo on Libya as mandated by the United Nations.

Addressing a press briefing in Valletta two days ago, home affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici said that the Maltese government is waiting for replies from Nato as to who and why a decision was taken to take more than 100 migrants who were rescued some 141 miles off Malta towards Valletta.

"This is a sovereign state and we cannot accept that Nato just decides to bring migrants here, when Malta was surely not the safest and closest port ," Mifsud Bonnici said, adding that "the ball is now in Nato's court and we cannot accept any responsibility for what is clearly not ours."

Mifsud Bonnici insisted that this was no stand-off with Spain or Italy, however it was an issue of Malta demanding that it's soveregnity be respected at all times.

"Someone has taken a decision and we want to know why," the minister insisted, as he explained that he had a telephone convesation with his Spanish counterpart in Madrid over the issue.

According to Mifsud Bonnici, the Spanish minister admitted to him that the ship's "unilateral decision was strange." He added that the ship is under Nato command and not Spain's at the moment.

So far the Spanish warship Almirante Juan de Borbon remains outside Malta's territorial waters awaiting orders.

The stand-off has been ongoing since Sunday and yesterday involved the medical evacuation of a 10-month old baby from on board the Spanish ship and brought by helicopter to Mater Dei Hospital for urgent medical care. Another two migrants were brought by helicopter to Malta today.

An AFM statement yesterday only talked about a 'medical evacuation' of an infant, but kept the issue quiet until it was revealed by the Spanish minister of defence Carme Chacon, who briefed parliament in Madrid and the media on the ongoing situation outside Malta's territorial waters.

Military sources have confirmed that the Spanish warship Almirante Juan de Borbón rescued the migrantson Sunday morning from a drifting boat south of Lampedusa, but when the ship attempted to take the migrants to Lampedusa, an Italian aircraft carrier – the Giuseppe Garibaldi – also active in the Mediterranean as part of Operation Unified Protector - was heard ordering the Spanish captain not to proceed towards the island.

It was here that the Spanish authorities asked the Maltese government permission to land the migrants, which permission was denied given that the responsibility was Italian, given that Lampedusa was the closest and safest port.

According to NATO, “the NATO Frigate responded [on 10 July] to a vessel in distress some 75 miles off the coast of Libya. A NATO ship [then] … provided medical support, food and offered mechanical assistance to the distressed civilians. [On the] 11th of July, the migrants (approximately 100), Ghanaians, Tunisians and Libyans, were transferred onto the NATO ship in accordance with the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) protocol…”

NATO says that “the appropriate legal, diplomatic and military authorities are being consulted to determine future course of action.”

MaltaToday is informed that talks are ongoing at this time between senior diplomats from the Spanish, Maltese and Italian governments, in a bid to find a solution to the impasse as some of the migrants are in urgent need of medical help.

Contacted, a NATO spokesman has said that an appeal has been made to Rome and Valletta for a solution to the problem, and that "human lives are respected at this time."

Last week, AFM Commander Brigadier Martin Xuereb, summarised Malta’s interpretation of its search and rescue obligations. 

Xuereb said that Malta has an obligation to coordinate search and rescue operations within its Search and Rescue Zone (SAR) but is not required to perform all rescue operations.

Commander Xuereb said Malta believes rescued persons should be disembarked at the nearest place of safety which, given the size and location of the Maltese SAR, will sometimes mean that Italian territory, particularly Lampedusa, is closer.

 Xuereb acknowledged that this interpretation is not shared by others, adding that “Malta had consistently insisted that the arrangement that best represented the interests of rescued persons was one that saw them disembarked in the nearest place of safety.”

He said the Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) has coordinated or assisted with 54 SAR cases so far this year.

Xuereb also confirmed that Malta would continue its refusal to host Frontex joint operations because of its objections to Frontex guidelines which are based “on a number of grounds, including the fact that [the guidelines] addressed matters deemed to be outside community competence and attempted to erode the rights that Malta enjoyed under the international legal framework. In light of these guidelines, Malta considered the hosting of [Frontex] joint operations to be detrimental to its national interest.”

Malta objects to the guidelines because it believes they would require rescued migrants to be disembarked in the country hosting the joint operation.

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chikku you made my day. NO, I am not Norman Lowell and there are more realists in Malta than you or the other do-gooders at other peoples expense think. Even South Africa got fed up with the illegal immigrants and is expelling them. SO if they are expelled by their African brothers, how do you expect us to lump them in Malta? No way chikku Enjoy chikku http://news.yahoo.com/worlds-top-asylum-spot-south-africa-plans-crackdown-170029196.html World's top asylum spot South Africa plans crackdown JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa has set the stage for the mass deportation of more than one million Zimbabwean immigrants later this month in a move that could alter its status as the world's largest country of refuge……
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On this one government did well, the migrants were not drifting in some battered boat but onboard a well equipped war ship. Hope government did not make some other deal we don't know about to get away with this one. All in all well done.
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Norman Lowell. Don't think you can hide behind the name "Haha". There cannot be two people so racist in one country.
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Just one more thing. The JRS needs to stop interfering in these matters. We DO NOT ELECT THE JRS TO RUN MALTA. THEY HAVE NO RIGHT TO INTERFERE IN NATIONAL LAWS AND MATTERS.
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WE tend to be seen as a dumping ground because that is the impression that Mifsud Bonnici and Gonzi give. Gonzi's hands ar full with the divorce and Arriva issues and he would not have survived with this issue very nicely. Malta is a small island and we cannot and should not accept any more illegal migrants on our shores for the nex 100 year. we have enough of them and we don't want them here anymore. I am all for humanitarian on a weekly basis, but then they should move on. But in Malta's case, once they are here, that is if you let in for a week, you must keep them for ever. WE must lend a helping hand if we must, but in these cases, we are stuck with them forever. That is not right and fair. So the alternative is that we must turn them away. A real shame,but we must think of ourselves and our children's future first and the country in general. That is what make a nation.
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Well done. At last it seems that this government has discovered that it has balls.
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Good. Now if NATO thinks that Tunisia is a safe country, then all African illegal immigrats must be returned to Tunisia to find their way back home. LET THIS BE A LESSON TO ALL THOSE WHO SAY WE HAVE TO KEEP THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATS IN MALTA. GET THE MESSAGE JRS AND THE OTHER BLEEDING HEARTS? GET THEM OUT OF MALTA GONEZI. THEY ARE UNWANTED AND UNWELCOME.
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Well done Dr.Mifsud Bonnici. Malta is there to help all those immigrants in need but this does not mean that we have to accept every single immigrant that foreign bodies decide to bring to Malta instead of taking them to Italy who in this case had to shoulder the responsibility! Hope Malta continues on this track!
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Niko you are right. All our maltese politicians want is to dangle a million euro in front of their faces and they will gleefully take them in at the expense of the super majority feeling against having even one more unwelcome illegal migrant landing on our shores. Enough of this nonsense. If Gonzi was not in hot water regarding many current local issues like the Arriva saga and the divorce issue, he would have already had them land here. We just have to wait. We just have to wait to see if he catipulates based on some big EU brother directive.
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U intom tahsbu li dawn ma jidhlux Malta? Issa taraw...issa jaghtuna xi karotta u noqghodu ghaliha
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Li kienet serja in-NATO ma kienetx thalli dghajjes ta immigranti jitilqu mill-Libya.
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"Nato seeks 'legal advice' into 'embarrasing order' to take migrants to Malta"!!! If NATO were a serious organisation it would first seek legal advice before getting into an embarrassing situation. As it is NATO behaved like any petty criminal who first gets into a mess and then goes to a lawyer to get him out of it. The Maltese government is in the right. It should stand firm.
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Why isn't Nato trying to place these refugees in other EU countries or the US. WHy do they want to have them dropped on a small island like Malta. The spanish warship picked them up, it's up to Nato and Spain to see where they are going to disembark these poor refugees. It's not Malta's place to take more of these refeugees as we have enough of them and are full up. If Gonzi gives in, he knows he is in trouble. and big trouble for that matter. He already has a lot going against him and he should be firm on this situation. Enough is enough. These people are now safe and the faster they are taken to spain or some other EU country, other than Malta, the quicker this situation is resolved. As for the JRS crying left and right, they need to shut up once and for all.
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Guidocforte jidher li l-Opposizzjoni spiċċat bla B**D martin borg you are right my friend. A warship is considered as an extension of the territory of the nation state of the warship, so they are in fact on Spanish territory. SO there is not problem to take them to Spain because they are already on Spanish territory. Clockwork Orange we do not care how you earn your living. We only care about US, OUR CHILDREN and OUR COUNTRY. Those illegal immigrats chose their destiny so let them face the consequences. NO illegal immigrats take precedence to what you called our political aim. Quo Vadis agree with you except that We have become ASS LICKERS. Maybe GONEZI and his henchmen have become ASS LICKERS, but certainly not me and those who are against NATO and the colonialist warmongers and the eu. Pavel għandek raġun. L-ebda bastiment speċjalment tal-Gwerra ma għandu dritt jibqa' fl-ibħra territorjali imma biss jgħaddi u jibqa sejjer u lanqas jieqaf. 1982 Law of the Sea Convention Article 17 Right of innocent passage Subject to this Convention, ships of all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea. Article 18 Meaning of passage 1. Passage means navigation through the territorial sea for the purpose of: (a) traversing that sea without entering internal waters or calling at a roadstead or port facility outside internal waters; or (b) proceeding to or from internal waters or a call at such roadstead or port facility. 2. Passage shall be continuous and expeditious. However, passage includes stopping and anchoring, but only in so far as the same are incidental to ordinary navigation or are rendered necessary by force majeure or distress or for the purpose of rendering assistance to persons, ships or aircraft in danger or distress. Article 19 Meaning of innocent passage 1. Passage is innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State. Such passage shall take place in conformity with this Convention and with other rules of international law. 2. Passage of a foreign ship shall be considered to be prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State if in the territorial sea it engages in any of the following activities: (a) any threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of the coastal State, or in any other manner in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations; (b) any exercise or practice with weapons of any kind; (c) any act aimed at collecting information to the prejudice of the defence or security of the coastal State; (d) any act of propaganda aimed at affecting the defence or security of the coastal State; (e) the launching, landing or taking on board of any aircraft; (f) the launching, landing or taking on board of any military device; (g) the loading or unloading of any commodity, currency or person contrary to the customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations of the coastal State; (h) any act of wilful and serious pollution contrary to this Convention; (i) any fishing activities; (j) the carrying out of research or survey activities; (k) any act aimed at interfering with any systems of communication or any other facilities or installations of the coastal State; (l) any other activity not having a direct bearing on passage.
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monique if you are so eager to help them go to Africa and you can help as many of them as you want.
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Clockwork Orange WE ARE FED UP WITH FOREIGNERS DICTATING TO US, WE ARE FED UP WITH LACKEYS WHO WANT TO SHOW MERCY AT OUR EXPENSE. A SPANISH SHIP PICKED THEM UP SO TAKE THEM TO SPAIN.
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imma kemm jilaba tal genwinn dan carm mifsud bonicci, mhux ovja li in-nato se jgibu limigranti go pajjizna jekk intom gvern bla bocci, issa kullhadd drahha li ahna noqdu al kollox. imma vera cwiec, dawn kissru is-sovraneta ta pajjizna, u bi dirtt intom kellkom titfawom il bara mil ibhra teritorjali ta pajjizna, bi sewwa jew bid-dnewwa.
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@ Omega What about that The Maltese government is letting NATO use our air space along with using our airport too, while they are carrying out military operations in Libya? That the worst thing that this government is doing in respect of what our CONSTITUTION STATES!!!! We have become ASS LICKERS of foreign countries, especially the western ones!!!! Sovereignity bye,bye! It does not belong to us anymore, since 1st May 2004!
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Don't we even agree on such a serious issue? Without being insensitive towards the tragedy of migrants, Government is however defending Malta's sovereignity and is saying to NATO that it is the Maltese people who rule Malta and not NATO. The immigrants' lives are not in danger because they have been transferred to the Spanish warship which is safe enough. Come on let's be united to defend our country's sovereignity and stop using every occasion to express partisan politics.
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Adrian Pace
@Martin Borg How would you know how I earn my livelihood? Everyone is quick to accuse these poor souls that they ruining our country and pointing fingers at everyone. What no one gets is that in life there are priorities. Human life takes priority over any other political aim. That is the basis of society and coexistence.
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This not a question of conscience the migrants are on a well equipped ship unlike FAM patrol boats so they can be easily taken to Spain. So all those bleeding hearts writing here who most probably make their livelyhood from the plight of immigrants, stop damaging the country. This not a question of a sinking boat that needs rescuing these guys are in good enough hands.
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The ship is not a ship of the line but a military ship therefore it has to take the migrants to Spain. Since when NATO took over the EU to dictate things, does our government have any balls or not?
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il-vera ahna l maltin sirna IL-LOKI tal BARRANIN x'misthuja kif spicca dan il- pajjiz!!!
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Where has the 'conscience' of our Prime Minister, and some of his closest ministers, gone? Aren't they so proud to be ROMAN CATHOLIC? When we heard them speaking against the introduction of divorce, they sounded like the CARDINALS in the Vatican!!!! What happened to their Christian values?Or maybe this is only a political issue? Why is it taking him so long to accept these illegal immigrants? Why is the Maltese government letting Malta's airport to be used by Nato's military airplanes, and IGNORING our CONSTITUTION? Why is the Maltese government trying to insult our intelligence by telling us that these WARPLANES run out of fuel? Whom they think they want to take for a ride? It's so incredible, and it proves the big mess that the Maltese government is in!! As usual, they use religion where it suits them. Just a bunch of HYPOCRITS, to say the least!!!!
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Raymond Falzon
Send them to the UK and France. They are the ones who started this war and they are the ones to gain most out of it when Gaddafi stops make a fool of the great british (sic) empire.
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Ara veru qeghdin sew taht dan il gvern. Sa fejn naf jien Malta ma hiex membru tan Nato. Kien dabrillhom rashom Mintoff fil 1971/2. Issa xi dritt ghandhom jimponu fuqna. Mela ahna mhux pajjiz indipendenti ? Fejna l-oppozizjoni forsi tnizzel in nies fit toroq jibrotestaw kontra in Nato.
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How many countries form part of NATO? Is it not NATO that is bombing Libya? Get NATO allies to sign declaration that they will take in these people immediately after we have given them first aid.
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NATO appeals to Malta and Italy! But Malta is not a member of NATO and is no part of NATO's campaign in Libya. NATO can appeal to its members, such as Italy. And as the Spanish ministry of defence proudly published the photo of the Spanish warship, we can see that the illegal immigrants must be quite safe on such a megaship which must be equipped with everything. That includes medical facilities. For suppose a Spanish military sailor has a medical emergency, can't they take care of him? Another solution is for the Spanish warship, which came to the neighbourhood harbouring no peaceful intentions, to take the illegal immigrants to Spain.
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Imma l aqwa li l PN is at the left of labour on immigration
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Imbaghad nitkazaw ghax il-Libya baghtet gunboat biex twaqqaf it-thaffir. Dawn baghtu aircraft carrier biex ihallu jgherqu l-emigranti; iwaqqfu vapur tal-gwerra spanjol. Mhux ta b xejn kecciehom Mintoff; Kemm kien jaf x qed jaghmel.. Komplu ilaghqu lil ajruplani tal-gwerra francizi u komplu halluhom izebilhuna. San Gorg kien jghid fis-siegha tal-prova kollox.
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@Clockwork Orange..couldn't agree more with you. . But the usual comrades here would even support Hitler's foolosophy and whilst sucked up in their xenophobic fears and overly busy pointing at NATO, UNHCR, EU and what have you..selfsame would shamelessly let drown a 10-month old baby.
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NATO are in Libya to protect the civilians, immigrants are civilians so they should take them to their country. Its a shame that while they are fighting for Libya's best oil deals we end up taking the immigrants.
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NATO caused the holy mess in Libya. NATO has the responsibility for picking up the pieces. Preferably by transporting the illegal immigrants back to Libya. Alternatively NATO should hand over the illegal immigrants to UNHCR. That is what UNHCR is there for - not to take part in seminars and issue press releases criticising our government.
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Adrian Pace
Who cares who is right or wrong? These are people in need and not objects of contention. It is this type of attitude that allowed people like Hitler to round up and exterminate over 6million people. Learn your history and its lessons.
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Our prime minister has a chatolic conscience so he should not even been in discussion all he had to do was follow his consciouse and greet them with open arms
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Dawk il-Bravi li marru ikissru gol-Libja ghandhom jerfaw ir-risponsabilta ta ghemilhom., mhux taparsi qed jiddefendu lic-civil Libjan. Lil-Palestinjani, Sirjani u ohrajn mhux qed jinqatlu ukoll. Jaqaw l-Inglizi, Francizi, Taljani, Amerikani, u bella kumpanija ma ghandhom xejn x'jiehdulhom. Ghamiltu herba shiha u issa tridu titfaw ir-risponsabilita fuq bicca blata
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Do NOT allow them to come to Malta. Italy should take them as an ex-colonizing power. WE ARE FULL UP. NO MORE ROOM. SEND THOSE ALREADY HERE BACK.