Malta in joint rescue operation of around 1,000 migrants

Malta and Italian coastguard in major joint rescue operation of at least 1,000 migrants on board 12 boats off the coast of Lampedusa.

The Armed Forces of Malta and the Italian coastguard are currently involved in a major rescue joint operation rescuing at least 1,000 migrants on board numerous boats travelling from Libya.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed that the AFM are assisting their Italian counterparts in the rescue of the migrants. Earlier today, the prime minister warned that the rapidly deteriorating crisis in Libya could result in an increasing number of migrants departing from Libya.

The Italian coastguard said it rescued at least 130 people from two rubber boats about 180km off the southern coast of Italian island Lampedusa, while operations are currently underway to save eight more vessels.

“We are certainly at more than 1,000 migrants,” involved in Sunday's rescue operation, a spokesman for the coast guard in Rome told Reuters.

Meanwhile, an AFM spokesperson explained that the joint rescue operation was a usual practice between the Maltese and their Italian counterparts. The army spokeman also said that AFM deployed an offshore patrol vessel to assist in the rescue of 12 boats some 100 miles off the coast of Lampedusa. The spokesman also explained that the AFM received no distress calls, while no boats requested medical assistance.

The AFM spokesman said that the number of boats was not exceptional compared to past operations.

The spokesman also explained that the AFM, together with their Italian counterparts, are “constantly monitoring the situation in Libya,” and are ready to provide logistic support in rescue operations.

The Italian coastguard also rescued around 280 migrants after they were rescued in the Sicilian channel. Italian officials also said that one of the migrants - a young man from the Central African Republic - is alleged to have been shot by traffickers who wanted to force him to get on the boat.

The rescue operation was the third in as many days after on Saturday, the Italian coastguard rescued more than 600 migrants who sent emergency calls for held from their boats near the Libyan coast.

Last week, more than 300 people died while trying to make the crossing to Europe.