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The Armed Forces of Malta has reported that early on Saturday evening, at around 18.47hrs, the Italian rescue authorities in Rome (MRCC Rome) informed the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) that an Italian aircraft had sighted at 17.56hrs a wooden boat adrift and laden with some 300 persons onboard, in a position 55 nautical miles (NM) from Lampedusa, 97 NM from Tunisia and 107 NM from Malta.
The Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC Malta) at Luqa Barracks issued navigational requests to any nearby merchant vessels to respond to this sighting’s report. The AFM also instructed P-51 Protector class patrol vessel to proceed to the last reported location of the sighted wooden vessel.
Help from Tunisian and NATO assets was requested, but none were reported in the area to provide a timely response. MRCC Rome also reported that its own assets in the area were busy with other multiple rescue cases.
Given the reported number of persons onboard the sighted vessel, Maritime Squadron’s offshore patrol vessel (OPV) P-61 was also placed on standby, ready to sail at a moment’s notice.
At 0404hrs, MRCC Rome confirmed that four patrol boats had intercepted the said migrant vessel and had taken all persons (334 migrants) onboard their boats. The said Italian patrol boats then proceeded North to rendez vouz with the Italian warship ITS Borsini in position 33 NM south off Lampedusa, approximately 94 nm South West off Malta and 87 nm East off Tunisia where a mid sea transfer took place.
By the early hours of the morning, at 0656 hrs, the Italian authorities at MRCC Rome declared the island of Lampedusa as “not a safe place” for the rescued persons to be disembarked at given the previous night’s number of landings of rescued persons, and redirected the Italian warship “Borsini” towards Malta. RCC Malta confirmed it was ready to assist in any urgent humanitarian cases of those who required urgent medical care however it refused the Italian warship Borsini permission to enter Maltese territorial waters, since Lampedusa was the closest safe land for the migrants.
At 1650hrs MRCC Rome informed MRCC Malta that the ‘ITS Borsini’ was proceeding to Taranto, Italy.
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