Malta rescues 35 migrants in distress after Italy refuses to intervene

Italy refused to rescue a boat carrying children despite being in international waters and being notified of it a day earlier

(Photo: DOI)
(Photo: DOI)

The Armed Forces of Malta has rescued a boat carrying 35 migrants after finding itself in difficulty south of Malta.

The NGO Watch The Med said that on 14 August, its emergency hotline was notified that a boat of at least 31 people – five women, nine children, and 17 men – was in difficulty in the middle of the sea.

The boat is believed to have left Libya and had reached international waters when the rescue coordination centre was notified.

“When we spoke to them, they were still able to move north. We alerted the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Italy to the case. Later, the travellers informed us that they had also spoken to MRCC Rome. We stayed in contact with them and received regularly updated GPS positions, showing their northbound trajectory,” Watch The Med said.

(Photo: DOI)
(Photo: DOI)

At 5:18pm on 14 August, MRCC Rome informed Watch The Med that they would inform the Libyan coastguard to the boat in distress. At 7:34pm, the people on board informed Watch The Med that they could see two vessels in their vicinity. At 11:45pm, MRCC Rome once again declared that the Libyan authorities were responsible for this boat, not them, despite its  location in international waters.

In a phone conversation with MRCC Rome at 1:54pm on 15 August, MRCC Rome told the NGO they could do nothing about the situation and that we should inform responsible authorities – the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) Malta.

“We spoke to RCC Malta at 2:06pm,  informed them about the distress situation. Over the following hours, we  received updated GPS coordinates from the people on the boat, showing that they had been able to move much closer to Malta.

“This boat has been at sea now for about a day and a half. Their odyssey could have easily ended in tragedy. Despite the urgency of the situation, coastguards of EU member states rejected responsibility. Merely minutes ago, at around 6pm, we were informed that Malta would conduct a search in the area of where the boat had been last located.”