Updated | Italy, Malta at fault over Lampedusa shipwreck that killed 200 - Amnesty

Amnesty said the migrants, whose boat was taking on water after being shot at by a Libyan vessel, were rescued at least 5-6 hours after their first emergency call.

The tragedy that shook the world: a Lampedusa shipwreck survivor with his daughter. The rest of his family perished in the shipwreck. Photo: Chris Mangion
The tragedy that shook the world: a Lampedusa shipwreck survivor with his daughter. The rest of his family perished in the shipwreck. Photo: Chris Mangion

Some 200 migrants presumed to have died in the Lampedusa shipwreck in 2013 could have been saved if Italian and Maltese authorities had not dithered over rescue operations, Amnesty International has claimed in a report issued today, Tuesday.

The boat capsized in Maltese search and rescue waters on October 11, 2013, with at least 400 people on board, according to survivors.

Malta rescued 147 people, Italy picked up another 39, while the other passengers were never found.

"It is reasonable to question whether Italy and Malta acted promptly and with all available resources to save the refugees and migrants and whether a delay in going to their rescue contributed to the shipwreck," Amnesty International said in its report noted.

MaltaToday has filed a Freedom of Information request on the details of the rescue mission that has been refused by the AFM and is under review by the Information and Data Protection Commissioner.

Amnesty said the migrants, whose boat was taking on water after being shot at by a Libyan vessel, were rescued at least 5-6 hours after their first emergency call. They appealed to Italy first, but were told they had to call Malta because of their location.

Once alerted, Maltese authorities were said to have been slow in assuming charge of operations, and not to have involved passing cargo ships, while an Italian navy vessel allegedly sailed towards the wreck at less than full speed, leaving first rescue duties to Malta.

Government reaction

The Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security said in a statement that the sequence of events of 11 October clearly showed that the Armed Forces of Malta "acted in a highly professional manner".

"They abided by international laws, rules and obligations. It was because of the intervention by the Armed Forces of Malta that many lives were saved. More lives would have been lost had it not been for the timely intervention of the AFM."

The ministry said the report by Amnesty International was still being scrutinised by experts in the field.

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