The five Eritrean migrants who landed in Lampedusa yesterday, had been assisted by the Armed Forces of Malta during their journey.

But a spokesman for the AFM said that the five migrants were in apparent good health and in good spirits. The boat was in a good condition with its motor running. The immigrants refused to board the AFM patrol boat, not wanting to be rescued but to continue in a north westerly direction.

The rubber dinghy was first located by a Frontex operated aircraft, contracted by Luxembourg government on Wednesday and was later approached by an AFM patrol boat, which assisted the migrants by giving them humanitarian aid in accordance with Malta's international obligations.

The AFM informed their Italian counterparts about the presence of the dinghy early on Thursday morning, enabling the Guardia di Finanza to send out a rescue launch to pick them up when the dinghy was still 10 nautical miles from Lampedusa. The AFM patrol boat retained contact until the immigrants were taken over by the Italians.

One of the survivors said that a patrol boat approached them two days ago, gave them fuel and five life rings, "and they moved away, leaving us there, despite our conditions", La Sicilia is reporting. The survivor is claiming that one of the crew members on board the patrol boat got the dinghy's motor going "because we didn't have the strength to do it, and indicated the route", La Sicilia quoted him as saying.

Agrigento Police Prefecture's Chief Umberto Postiglione has ordered an inquiry into the tragic incident in which 75 immigrants are believed to have died while travelling on board a rubber dinghy, Italian media are reporting.

Postiglione, has been appointed by the Italian Home Affairs Minister Roberto Maroni to compile a report on the incident. The chief officer said that if what the surviving immigrants are claiming - that crew on board other boats that passed by failed to help them - was true, then there was a case of breach of human rights.

Meanwhile, this morning, a spokesman for the AFM denied reports - by the Italian media - about four bodies having been recovered from the sea.

When contacted, the spokesman said that eight bodies had been sighted between Tuesday and yesterday but none was recovered. The eight bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition and it was unlikely that they had any connection with the dinghy carrying the Eritreans.

Five emaciated Eritreans, two men, a woman and two minors, who were picked up at sea by the Italian coastguards yesterday, claimed that they were the only survivors out of a group of 80 migrants who left Libya 20 days ago.

UNHCR spokesman Laura Boldrini described the surviving migrants as extremely thin, too weak to walk and having severely bloodshot eyes. She also said that the immigrants got lost after two days and their fuel ran out because they were going around in circles. The migrants started dying after the food and water ran out too.

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