Twenty four people stranded on a sinking boat in Malta's search and rescue Zone have been rescued by a humanitarian organisation.

Sea-Eye said the migrants were in distress in a small wooden boat in the Maltese search and rescue zone and called for Alarm Phone for help.

Those on board fled Benghazi in Libya on May 8 and hail from Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Libya, Syria and Egypt. All 24 were taken on board the Sea-Eye and given first aid.

Video: Fiona Alihosi, Sea-Eye

“They are all extremely exhausted. Most of their clothes are soaked and therefore they are hypothermic. It is obvious that they are psychologically traumatised due to six days and nights at sea,” Sea-Eye doctor Daniela Klein said. 

Sea-Eye accused the Maltese rescue coordination centre of refusing to coordinate rescue efforts.

On Thursday, the oil tanker Ross Sea approached the wooden boat and in radio communication with the Sea-Eye 4, the captain said he had tried to reach the rescue coordination centre in Malta but received no response for a while. He was then told to stay around and keep on monitoring from distance.

Sea-Eye chairman Gorden Isler said: “We regularly receive no response from the rescue centre in Malta during maritime emergencies. Why didn't Malta directly ask Ross Sea to rescue the people? Malta did not send any help for three days. By now, Malta stops at nothing to prevent people seeking protection from being able to reach Malta." 

He said that had Malta coordinated the rescue and allowed it to be carried out by the Ross Sea, it would have had to take in the people as it was the next port of destination.

In a separate statement, Alarm Phone also criticised the AFM for their "shocking behaviour" and "cruel non-assistance policy".

"They endangered these lives by refusing to rescue or to coordinate a rescue operation. The boat was in severe distress but the Maltese authorities did not care whether the 24 people on board would survive or not," Alarm Phone said.

When contacted for comments on Thursday, the AFM would only say the situation was still developing and said it was commited to coordinate cases within its search and rescue region.

The AFM was also criticised last week for failing to respond after another migrants' boat located in Malta's SAR between Malta and Libya. A German cargo ship which went to the site could not get the migrants on board because of its high freeboard. 

Alarm Phone said the Maltese authorities refused to coordinate the rescue, and referred to the responsibility of the flag state since the ship was German. The AFM said last week it had no knowledge of the case.  

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