50 awaiting rescue in Maltese SAR

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A group of 50 asylum seekers have found themselves in distress in Malta’s search-and-rescue area, but a nearby Armed Forces of Malta vessel has reportedly turned away from their rubber boat.

Alarm Phone, an NGO which operates a hotline for people crossing the Mediterranean in a bid to reach Europe, alerted Maltese and Italian authorities shortly after 5am on Saturday to the presence of the group in Malta’s SAR zone.

Humanitarian NGO Sea-Watch sent its reconnaissance airplane Moonbird to check on the vessel, finding that an AFM patrol boat, the P24, was just two nautical miles away. But the vessel failed to respond to requests for communication, and was moving away from the scene.

The two NGOs insisted that Malta had a duty to rescue the group, in line with its international obligations.