Merchant vessel rescues 78 asylum seekers; remains without safe harbor

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A merchant vessel that rescued 78 asylum seekers which were on board a boat in distress, remains without a port of safety, migrant hotline Alarm Phone said in a tweet. The NGO insisted that the people on board required immediate disembarkation and highlighted that they had already suffered enough.

“Malta and Italy, stop playing these cynical games and let them land,” it wrote.

A government spokesperson told Newsbook.com.mt that a group of around 78 to 90 asylum seekers were rescued following a joint operation by the Armed Forces of Malta and the Italian authorities. He explained that the vessel was waiting for further instructions off Lampedusa.

Earlier Newsbook.com.mt reached out to the Armed Forces of Malta about the situation, however, a spokesperson said that there was no information at this point.

Former OPM employee Neville Gafà published photos of people he claims to be the same ones which were rescued by the merchant vessel. Gafà alleged that over the past few days there were efforts to ensure that their escape from Libya was successful. He added that the migrants had used social networks to ensure their place on a boat.

“No plans in place to transfer the migrants to Captain Morgan’s vessel” – Sources

Sources have told Newsbook.com.mt that the migrants rescued by the merchant vessel would not be transferred to the Captain Morgan vessel chartered by the government where another group of asylum seekers are being indefinitely hosted.

Europa II was chartered by the government to host a group of 57 asylum seekers that were rescued in the Maltese search and rescue area last week. The rescue operation was not carried out by the Armed Forces of Malta, instead a private fishing trawler, Dar al Salam, was used to carry out the mission.

Malta and Italy have both moved to close their ports to humanitarian ships and migrant landings amid the coronavirus pandemic. Malta has stated that it could not ensure the rescue of migrants in its search and rescue region due to limited resources.

Europa II which was loaded with food and supplies before leaving Malta remains 13 nautical miles off the coast of Malta.

According to a government spokesperson the people were in a good health condition.