Updated: 6.15pm

A boat with 34 people on board in Malta’s search and rescue zone is in need of immediate rescue, according to a humanitarian organisation. 

“The people in distress just said ‘please help us, immediate rescue, rescue now’, they repeat it again and again,” an Alarm Phone spokesperson told Times of Malta. 

Fifteen hours after the first alert from the NGO, the migrants spent Friday night out at sea waiting for help to arrive. They are still drifting and need to be rescued. 

When contacted about the migrants’ plea for help, an AFM official said: “We have no information on the matter so far”.

Alarm Phone is an emergency hotline NGO which receives SOS messages from migrants crossing the Mediterranean and then relays them to the national authorities, depending on their exact location. 

On Friday, the NGO first reported how 34 people were in distress off the coast of Libya, where the people on board were asking for help due to the strong wind and waves.

The NGO alerted the authorities for immediate rescue, as the boat was in danger of capsizing due to the harsh weather conditions. 

Following the first update, the NGO said the migrants survived the night in Malta’s search and rescue zone.

A cargo vessel, the Berlin Express was with the boat at the time, but the rough seas didn’t allow the people to climb the vessel.

It is unclear how many men, women, and children are on board, and the state of their health conditions. The spokesperson said it is assumed the boat left from Misrata region in Libya.

The NGO sent numerous emails to the Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre regarding the migrant’s location.

“Over the past 15 hours now longer, RCC Malta has not given out any information. I think once or twice they said that they couldn’t give any info, other times we could not get through to them in the first place or they would hang up,” he said.

“Later they sent an email saying they are not responsible.”

The email seen by Times of Malta sent by RCC Malta said the boat has been intercepted by the German vessel, and that the boat is inside Libyan SRR.

“You are kindly reminded that Malta is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority for this case,” the email reads. 

In another tweet on Saturday afternoon, Alarm Phone said Malta is insisting that the boat is adrift in international waters and the Libyan search and rescue area, and is therefore denying any responsibility.

"We fear the merchant vessel Berlin Express is standing by until Libyan forces arrive to illegally return the people to Libya!"

Alarm Phone has now contacted Italy and Germany for a safe port. 

Madrid demonstation calls on AFM to do its duty

On Saturday, protesters in Madrid took to the streets calling for the Armed Forces of Malta to rescue the migrants in distress.

"Rescue the people in danger in the Mediterranean right now!" read a banner at the demonstration.

Last month, 106 people arrived in Sicily after the vessel had been refused to disembark in Malta, days before the arrival of Pope Francis. 

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