Updated | Malta rescues 76 migrants from its SAR zone

Boat migrants left Libya on Sunday have told NGO they are in distress

A boat carrying a total of 76 migrants will disembark in Malta in the coming hours as the Maltese authorities have committed to rescuing the distressed migrants in Malta's Search and Rescue zone. They are on their way to Malta.

Earlier, a migrant rescue charity claimed that Malta was refusing to assist people at sea at risk of drowning.

The WatchTheMed NGO, which takes calls from boat migrants at risk, said it had informed the Maltese authorities on Monday at 6:35pm of a boatload of 75 people, including 15 women, some pregnant, and a baby, who left Libya on Sunday, 13 October.

The Armed Forces of Malta launched a search operation from the air and the people on board informed the NGO that they saw a plane circling above them at around 8pm. “But it disappeared and they were left alone during the whole night,” the NGO said. “So far, no rescue operation seems to have been initiated,” it said on Tuesday, at about 12pm.

“We tried repeatedly to reach the Maltese and Libyan authorities throughout the night without success. We are used to the so-called Libyan coastguards not responding to our calls, but tonight even Maltese authorities were not reachable for more than six hours. MRCCs are obliged to be reachable 24/7.

“A rescue vessel is nowhere to be seen. If an operation had been launched from Malta quickly after being notified of the distress, the 75 people could have been rescued already. Instead of launching an operation now, Maltese authorities are referring us to the Libyan authorities, who are not reachable.”

WatchTheMed said that over the past hours, the situation on board has further deteriorated. “The people on board told Alarm Phone: ‘Water is coming in the boat’. We call on the Maltese authorities and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to end this disgraceful act of non-assistance. We demand the Armed Forces of Malta to carry out a SAR operation immediately. The situation on board is dire, no time can be lost.”

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