Pasquetta Tragedy: Ghost ship’s Malta connections identified

Frontex distances itself from the Pasquetta Tragedy

Italian investigative journalist Nello Scavo reports that the ‘ghost ship’ or mysterious ship, without any registration, marks visible, which ferried the sinking dinghy with 55 migrants back to Libyan shores from the Search And Rescue area of Malta was registered in Malta till 2019, though it is now registered in Libya. It was last seen in Malta on April 14.

In an investigative piece on Friday in the Catholic newspaper and portal L’AVVENIRE he also said that the EU’s border and coastguard agency FRONTEX has attempted to distance itself from what is being described as the Pasquetta Tragedy where migrants lost their lives as Malta, Italy and the EU tried to shift responsibility for search and rescue.

The Ghost Ship

Scavo, in his interview with Newsbook.com.mt described the ship that ferried the immigrants as a ‘ghost ship’ because that ship had no name, carried no flag, had no call sign and there was no indication as to who was the captain, the crew or the country to which the boat was registered.

“What was this boat doing in the Mediterranean? It is not normal for a nameless boat to be wandering the European seas,” observed Scavo.

In his article, published on Friday just after the interview, Scavo revealed the identity and provenance of the boat. The vessel in question, he wrote on L’AVVENIRE, was the Mae Yemanja (IMO 7027459) – Registered till 2019 in Malta to a company owned by Captain Charles Grech.

The Maltese Captain

In 2015 it was reported that Grech had been held in Libya in 2015 with a stash of €300,000. Grech had strongly denied having carried either money or that he was involved in the contraband of arms. In a long interview with the Malta Independent, he explained his position and had averred never to return to Libya.

Scavo said that Grech faced no consequences in Libya and although the issue is being investigated in Malta, the case seems to have died a quiet death. Meanwhile, however, Grech still lists Misurata in Libya as the place where he lives.

The Malta registration of the Mae Yemanja had been discontinued and it has now  been registered under a Libyan flag and its ownership is as yet unknown.  Its name and registration number, said Scavo,  have been painted over. Scavo said that it was last seen in Malta on April 14. After leaving the port it switched off its navigation system and reappeared on April 15, in Tripoli with 51 surviving migrants, including a 47-day old baby. There were also 5 corpses and a further 7 had been lost at sea.

Scavo said that the surviving migrants seem to have been imprisoned in Tarik AL Sikka which he described as “dark hole where not even the UN can penetrate”.

Frontex steps back

L’AVVENIRE asked FRONTEX for an explanation about the events revolving around the lackadaisical attempts at the rescue of the stranded migrants over the Easter weekend.

“While conducting air patrols in the weekend between the 9-11th April, the FRONTEX aeroplanes noticed several boats in distress. In line with international convention regulations, we advised all the competent national search and rescue coordination centres for a sea rescue….according to international law, it is these centres who carry the responsibility for search and rescue” wrote FRONTEX.

In an interview with Newsbook.com.mt, Scavo had had much to say about FRONTEX’s involvement.

“This is a fundamental matter since up to today, the role of Frontex in the Mediterranean is not clear,” said Scavo. He said that in this Easter Migrants tragedy, FRONTEX pulled the visibility of its aircraft from the public domain. He said that these aircraft are closely followed by some journalists.

“We noticed that when a FRONTEX aircraft patrolled an area where migrants were suspected to be adrift, some hours later a so-called Libyan coast guard vessel would turn up,” observed Scavo. He said that he had published documents on L’AVVENIRE which show that when a migrants’ boat is sighted, FRONTEX advises all the coastguards of the Mediterranean littoral, including Libya. Scavo pointed out that no denials had arrived from Rome or Brussels on the matter.