Malta’s Armed Forces were on Friday sighted towing a distressed vessel that had previously been assisted and monitored by a commercial vessel, the Ambra, according to Alarm Phone.

The organisation said it received an SOS from the 38 migrants onboard the distressed vessel on Thursday night. The Ambra, registered under the Maltese flag, spent around 12 hours monitoring the situation until an AFM boat was spotted.

Eventually, crewmen on board the Ambra reported back to Alarm Phone, saying the AFM had failed to repair the engine and began to tow it northward to an unspecified destination.

According to the shipping company, the Ambra left the scene shortly after the AFM showed up. Alarm Phone voiced a “fear of push-backs”, referring to a statement released by the UNHCR earlier on Friday.

In the statement, the United Nations’ human rights organisation said that “there were reports that, on at least one occasion, the Armed Forces of Malta attempted to push a migrant boat back towards Libya, and on another occasion attempted to push a boat with migrants in the direction of the Italian island of Lampedusa.”

An AFM spokesperson declined to comment.

The shipping company said when contacted a spokesperson is not available to comment outside of regular office hours.

Alarm Phone reported that their efforts to contact the Malta Rescue Coordination centre were not answering the phone.

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