Maltese Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Tonio Borg and Justice and Home Affairs Dr Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici said on Saturday evening during a press conference that Malta has no intention of reducing its search and rescue (SAR) zone. Malta reiterated that it had always met all its international and humanitarian obligations. The statement comes following the latest case of illegal immigration whereby according to rescued Eritreans, the five are the only survivors of a group of 80 migrants who left Libya on the 28th of July. These landed eventually in Lampedusa. No corpses yet have been recovered.
Minister Borg reacted to reports on the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera whereby his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini said that it is clear that Malta is not well-equipped to control such a wide area and urged Maltese authority to shrink the area. Dr Borg said that the Italian minister was factually incorrect in linking Malta’s SAR zone to the incident.
Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici said that the Italian media is being “totally incorrect” in stating that Malta does not collaborate with the Italian authorities.
It was highly unlikely that the dinghy on which the five Eritrean immigrants who landed in Lampedusa on Thursday carried many more people, Brig. Carmel Vassallo said also on Saturday evening. Addressing a news conference, Brig. Vassallo said that the dinghy was first noticed by a FRONTEX helicopter in Libya’s SAR area and a Maltese patrol boat was immediately dispatched to assist. The AFM surveilled the dinghy from a distance until it was close to Lampedusa. He pointed out that a boat without fuel did not qualify as a boat in distress.
The five Eritrean migrants spotted by the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) on Wednesday afternoon were in good health and refused to be rescued, insisting that they continue on their North-West course, the AFM had said on Friday in response to various local and international media reports.
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