No Maltese nationals among Tripoli evacuees

Virtu Ferries evacuate Italian embassy employees from Tripoli as 'detoriorating situation in Libya' forces closure of Italian embassy.

No Maltese nationals are among on board a Virtu Ferries catamaran chartered by the Italian government to evacuate a group of Italian nationals from Tripoli.

The catamaran San Gwann left Malta during the early hours of this morning before leaving Tripoli at about 12.15pm with more than 50 but less than 100 Italians. The exact number of evacuees has not yet been established.

The vessel is being monitored by an Italian aircraft. It is expected to arrive in Malta at 7pm for refuelling before departing on to the port of Augusta in Sicily. The Italian embassy was one of only two which were still operating in Tripoli.

Speaking to MaltaToday, Virtu Ferries director Henri Saliba explained that no Maltese nationals are on board the vessel, and that the company received no evacuation demands by any Maltese nationals in Libya.

Despite repeated calls by the government warning any Maltese nationals to evacuate the Libyan crisis immediately, an unidentified number of Maltese remain in Libya. Earlier today, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat called on any remaining Maltese nationals to leave Libya, and warned that any future rescue operation would be increasingly complicated and dangerous.

Meanwhile, Henri Saliba also explained that Virtu Ferries are taking all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their staff and passengers. Saliba, however, underlined that there is no immediate danger.

Italy foreign minister Paulo Gentiloni said that the closure of the Italian embassy was necessary as a result of the "deteriorating situation in Libya."