Watch: “Malta pretends not to see the migrants off its coast” – Di Maio

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio took aim at Malta once again, saying that the country was ignoring the migrants just 1 mile off its coast. This was the second time that Di Maio accused Malta of ignoring the asylum seekers rescued by the German NGO civil search and rescue vessels.

READ: ‘Check your facts’ – Maltese Government to Di Maio

Di Maio was asked during a press event in Novi Ligure on how will the impasse will end, to which he replied that the European Union continued to bury its head in the sand while Malta ignored.

Di Maio reiterated that Italy was ready to take up 10 asylum seekers which were rescued by the German NGO boats belonging to Sea Watch and Sea Eye and which consist of women and children. He claimed that no child should be left for 14 days at sea because no one would take responsibility.

On Friday the Maltese Government told Di Maio to check his facts after a public statement on the stand off.

‘We will investigate how the NGOs carried out their operations’

Di Maio who in the past accused NGOs of being “migrant taxis” said that through Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, they will investigate the exact position where the rescue operation by Sea Watch 3 and Professor Albrecht Plenck took place and whether it was  a proper rescue or they were transferred by human traffickers to the NGO vessels.

On 27 December the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRRC) in Rome had informed the NGO vessel of a dinghy in distress with around 75 asylum seekers on board. The NGO had headed back towards the search and rescue zone looking for the dinghy, to no avail. It is not yet understood whether the boat was one of the boats which were assisted by the Armed Forces of Malta.

Di Maio stressed that the Italian will not retreat on its immigration policies.

The Sea Watch has 32 asylum seekers while the Sea Eye has a further 17, making 49 in all.

On Thursday, the Deputy Spokesperson for the Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos urged member States to “help this joint effort to safely disembark those on board as soon as possible on behalf of the Migration Commissioner.

READ: Commissioner Avramopoulos calls on Member States to provide support

A Government spokesperson told that there is nothing to add to yesterday’s statement.