A group of exhausted asylum seekers including children is drifting in a boat to Lampedusa after Maltese authorities refused to answer calls for help last night, according to NGO Alarmphone.
88 people, including 15 women, eight children and a baby, left Libya on Sunday and spent the night stranded in 'Maltese waters' night despite calls for help, a spokesperson for the emergency hotline.
The reference to Maltese waters was the Maltese search and rescue zone.
“The people aboard are exhausted. The Armed Forces of Malta and the Italian authorities did not act or pick up our calls. Only the civil rescue vessel Open Arms told us they would search for the boat today,” the spokesperson continued.
Today we were alerted by a boat with 88 people fleeing Libya. They were in #Malta SAR zone. We alerted authorities via email and tried to call @Armed_Forces_MT, but nobody picked up. The people need urgent help, the children are crying and the night is coming! pic.twitter.com/xAIV5FIVDu— Alarm Phone (@alarm_phone) March 29, 2021
Alarmphone meanwhile also issued an emergency call in another emergency off Libya.
"We were called by a group of 88 people on a rubber boat. They said that part of the dinghy was deflated and people went overboard. They keep calling in panic and ask for rescue. They should be found before it’s too late!"
?Ongoing #SHIPWRECK off #Libya!— Alarm Phone (@alarm_phone) March 30, 2021
We were called by a group of 88 people on a rubber boat. They said that part of the boat was deflated & people went overboard. They keep calling in panic and ask for rescue. They should be found before it’s too late! pic.twitter.com/9dgdnMH3r1
Sea Watch alleges Malta involved in illegal pushback this weekend
Malta was implicated in a so-called pushback last weekend as a number of migrants attempting to flee Libya were returned to the war torn country, according to search and rescue NGO Sea Watch.
“Over 1000 people tried to flee Libya over the weekend. Our friends from Open Arms rescued more than 200 people in distress at sea. However, the majority of the 1000 people fleeing were illegally pulled back to Libya on behalf of the EU.” the NGO tweeted.
“Even in the Maltese search and rescue zone, a push-back by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard - coordinated by Malta - was documented,” they said.
Over 1000 people tried to escape #Libya over the weekend. The #OpenArms rescued more than 200 people. However, the majority of the 1000 people fleeing were illegally pulled back. Even in the Maltese SAR zone, a push-back coordinated by #Malta was documented. pic.twitter.com/0Cv16WjNKO— Sea-Watch International (@seawatch_intl) March 29, 2021
Questions sent to the Armed Forces of Malta went unanswered at the time of writing and a spokesperson for the AFM was not available for comment.
Last week, MEPS called out European authorities over illegal returns.
In a letter to the Maltese Attorney General, the European parliamentarians demanded an end to illegal pushbacks to Libya and massive human rights violations resulting from Europe’s collaboration with the so-called Libyan Coast Guard.