Updated: 61 migrants in distress to be brought to Malta

The Armed Forces of Malta were called to rescue a boat in distress which was carrying 61 people. In a statement the AFM said that 61 people were rescued. The Government spokesperson said that there was one person unconscious on board. The AFM were alerted that a boat to the 71 nautical miles south of Malta was in difficulty. The spokesperson said that the boat “seems to be in distress” which is why Malta will be effecting a rescue operation. The spokesperson said that this was about being “legally correct”.

Earlier on Saturday afternoon Interior Minister Matteo Salvini taunted on Facebook with exclusive images of a rubber boat passing through Maltese search and rescue zone he claimed. Salvini said that the boat was carrying some 70 migrants. The Interior Minister rhetorically asked in his post who will intervene or will the boat be directed to Italy.

Over 170 migrants stranded off Lampedusa; “Not Malta’s responsibility”

Interior Minister Michael Farrugia claimed that Malta’s Search and Rescue (SAR) operation center has no involvement in the latest standoff between Malta and Italy. Farrugia was giving comments to Euronews journalist Giorgia Orlandi.

Farrugia said that the Armed Forces of Malta had approached the migrants’ boat and respected their “right of freedom of navigation at high seas”. He also claimed that the Libyan authorities inquired about the boat. He stressed that no distress call was made by the boat.

According to the Italian Authorities the distress call was made when the boat reached the Maltese SAR. The Maltese Government had claimed that the people refused help from the Maltese authorities.

Farrugia further argued that the people should be allowed to disembark either in Lampedusa or in any other Italian port.

According to reports that appeared on the Italian news agency, ANSA, there are over 177 people on board the Diciotti – the Italian off-shore patrol vessel which is currently in standby between Malta and Lampedusa awaiting further instructions. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was reportedly saying that the Italian Coast Guard acted without informing the Ministry when intervening and taking the people on board.