Update 2 | Magistrate orders release of migrants' bodies for burial

Magistrate releases bodies of dead migrants for burial, mortuary staff members out on leave and sick leave with the exception of one • Multi-faith prayers in preparation for the burial.

29 migrants who lost their lives at sea will be buried in Malta, Photo Ray Attard
29 migrants who lost their lives at sea will be buried in Malta, Photo Ray Attard
29 bodies were recovered from the boat's lower deck; 100 others are said to have been murdered and thrown at sea.
29 bodies were recovered from the boat's lower deck; 100 others are said to have been murdered and thrown at sea.
Multi-faith prayers for the migrants. Video by Ray Attard

Italian authorities investigating the alleged murder of some 100 migrants who were stabbed and thrown in the sea last weekend have requested to see details of the autopsy of the 29 bodies that were recovered from the same boat by the Armed Forces of Malta, a spokesperson for the Home Affairs Ministry said.

The Italian inquiring magistrate has also requested to visit the fishing boat that was towed to Malta.

The Maltese magistrate this morning ordered the release of the migrants' bodies for burial, almost a week after they were brought to Malta. The first of the burials is expected to take place tomorrow after the necessary preparations take place.

28 migrants will be buried at the Addolorata Cemetery while another one will be buried at the Turkish Cemetery.

A Catholic priest and the Imam presided over the prayers ahead of the migrants’ burial.

Autopsies carried out by Maltese forensic experts showed that the 29 migrants died after drowning on the boat's lower deck and the bodies carried no signs of stabbing. It is understood that the burial of the bodies has been delayed due to Italy's request leading to an unbearable situation at Mater Dei's mortuary.

Orders for the release of the bodies for burial are issued by the magistrate appointed to head an inquiry.

At the same time, the heavily decomposed bodies are creating odours at the mortuary, forcing four dissectors who work there to go out on leave. MaltaToday is informed three are out on sick leave, one was already out on leave and a fifth has reported to work but will stick to office work. Although Mater Dei Hospital has provided the workers with masks, the condition has becoming an unacceptable one for the workers.

The mortuary can take up to 18 bodies in a fridge; the rest are in a cold room ready for burial. The bodies are not in a freezer meaning that the decomposing process has not been stalled.

Five migrants who were on the fishing boat were arrested by the Italian authorities on suspicion of stabbing over 100 migrants packed into the small fishing vessel and then throwing them overboard. The cause of death of the 29 migrants has been listed as drowning following a stampede that is believed to have been caused during the transfer of migrants from the ship to a merchant vessel.

Panic broke out on the lower deck as fumes from the motor made it hard for passengers to breathe. Fighting broke out as those trapped below struggled to get out and find fresh air. The bodies were recovered from the boat's lower deck.

A spokesperson for the Home Affairs said the investigation was being carried out jointly between the Maltese and Italian authorities and Malta was currently making the necessary arrangements for the arrival of the Italian investigators.

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