63 rescued and brought to Malta

Updated 08:26 AM
The group of 65, spotted by Sea Watch International's reconaissance aircraft Moonbird.

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

63 migrants have been picked up by the Armed Forces of Malta in a patrol boat. They arrived in Malta at around 2pm.

Earlier, humanitarian NGO Alarm Phone had been calling the Maltese authorities to do their duty and rescue a group of 63 asylum seekers who were adrift in Malta’s search-and-rescue zone and waiting for assistance from the Maltese Authorities.

On Twitter, the NGO said that the migrants have been in distress for 26 hours and amongst the 65 there are 20 minors.

All coastguards refused to assist the migrants said Alarm Phone.

Thursday morning onwards

Their presence was first reported on Thursday morning by Alarm Phone, which runs a hotline support service for people crossing the Mediterranean in their bid to reach safety in Europe. The group reported to have escaped from Libya’s notorious migrant detention camps, which Pope Francis compared to concentration camps earlier this month.

Alarm Phone contacted the Maltese authorities, but received no response. It had similarly complained that the phones were left ringing on Wednesday, when another group of 23 people ended up adrift in Malta’s SAR: the group ultimately reached Lampedusa. It said that the group were panicking, with water starting to enter their wooden boat.

With Malta and Italy failing to respond, Alarm Phone also contacted Tunisia: at that point, the boat was closest to the Kerkennah Islands which form part of the North African country. But the NGO was informed that they did not have any available rescue assets, and that the boat was ultimately within Malta’s SAR zone.

Another NGO, Sea Watch International, sent out its reconnaissance plane Moonbird, which managed to locate the boat. It found that the people on board had no life vests, whilst exasperatedly reminding the Maltese authorities that it was their duty to rescue them.

The group managed to restart the engine for a brief period, but it has since broken down again, with no rescue in sight.

“The people are left all alone, at risk of dying, while Europe is watching,” Alarm Phone lamented.