Current Affairs
Immigrants’ rescue: Maltese Government asked private boats to help out and also sent food and drink to Libya

The investigations by Television Malta continue into the rescue operation of a dinghy on which it is being alleged that people were left to die and about which an inquiry has been opened.

TVM has learned that Army planes flew more than 3,600 nautical miles until they located the dinghy. Over the last few hours, informed sources explained to this newsroom that a fishing boat which took the immigrants from the dinghy on board, was one of the private boats which the Maltese Government had commissioned to assist in the rescue.   Apart from this, at the same time the Maltese Government also sent another boat to Tripoli with 30 tonnes of food and water as part of a humanitarian aid effort to help the immigrants.

Two days ago Television Malta reported that during one search and rescue operation for the group of immigrants, some of whom allegedly died, the AFM flew more than 20 hours until it found the dinghy. The plane continued to fly a much further distance from Malta until in the evening between 13 – 14 April, help arrived by sea, and the rescue operation started.

Further investigations have shown that during this time, AFM patrol boats were employed carrying out routine rounds: to protect the borders in order not to allow boats from Malta to leave according to the legal notice published by the Government because of the Coronavirus; and the army was coordinating work related to the five immigrant boats in the search and rescue zone for which Malta is responsible. At the same time, information was emerging that around 1,000 immigrants had left Libya and a report also emerged that some immigrants had died on another dinghy which later turned out to be not true.

Informed sources told Television Malta that the Maltese Government had already made arrangements so that if necessary, private boats can help with the rescue of immigrants. The same sources said that the boats which began accepting to assist were asked to sail towards the areas where the immigrants were believed to have arrived.

As soon as the AFM plane located the immigrants’ dinghy at midnight, one of these private boats which was a fishing boat was guided to the exact spot. This fishing boat carried out the rescue, taking on board all the people who were on the dinghy.  At this point, further assistance came from a merchant ship, IVAN, which belongs to Suardiaz Lines which offered shelter so that the rescue operation could be carried out. With the ports in Italy and Malta closed because of the COVID-19 emergency, the coordination required for the fishing boat with the immigrants to enter Tripoli, was duly carried out.

In the light of this immigration emergency in the Mediterranean, TVM said that in a humanitarian gesture, the Maltese Government sent a consignment of food and drink to Libya.  Sources from the Libyan coast guard said that they facilitated matters to allow the boat sent by the Maltese Government to arrive in Tripoli in order to distribute 30 tonnes of food and drink to the centres where the immigrants are being held. This boat entered Tripoli shortly after the rescued immigrants arrived. It was in the light of these circumstances that Minister Evarist Bartolo made his appeal to the EU to provide €100 million in financial humanitarian assistance to Libya.

In reply to a series of questions sent by this station, a Government spokesperson said that during this time Malta was coordinating the operation so that immigrants who were out at sea could be rescued using private boats. Legal sources explained that this is a normal procedure as listed in the Search & Rescue Convention of 1979 which obliges a country to coordinate the rescue of any vessel in its Search & Rescue Zone.