Updated 6pm

A migrant mother adrift in Maltese waters with 47 others is begging the authorities to at least save her child, according to an emergency hotline tweet on Saturday.  

"People are without water, the pregnant woman is so tired, the child is crying, so thirsty. Please if you don't want to save us give us at least water," the group, who said they are out of water and fuel, told Alarm Phone.

People aboard the rubber boat, which has been stranded for almost two days now, face the risk of being left to drown on Easter weekend, with both Malta and Italy having said that their ports are unsafe.

A second vessel with 72 people aboard is also stranded in Malta's search and rescue zone, and said they were approached by a military vessel that threatened them and disappeared without rescuing them, Alarm Phone reported.

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The Prime Minister’s Office has refused to flatly deny a reported clash between AFM soldiers and migrants on a boat stranded in Maltese waters on Thursday, hours before their eventual rescue.

Malta has also said that it cannot guarantee resources to come to the aid of people in distress at sea. 

It said the decision was being taken in view of the risk of the spreading of COVID-19 and the fact that the forces of law and order were otherwise engaged on duties related to containing the virus.

Alarm Phone said that it had alerted the Maltese authorities to the boat at 11pm on Friday night. They received a confirmation of their email but no response.

“Sea-rescue is your duty! Don't let them drown,” the NGO addressed the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) in a tweet.

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Contacted by Times of Malta, the AFM did not respond. 

Carola Rackete, who made international headlines last year by forcibly docking in an Italian port with rescued migrants, tweeted “ I feel I have lived that same Easter weekend many years now: boats in distress and not enough help at all, while technically help is available.”

“Right now, not a single rescue ship because of COVID-19. Refugees still flee the civil war and that won't stop,” she said.

Local human rights NGOs and activists have expressed shock at the authorities’ decision to close its borders to migrants in need and have accused the government of exploiting the pandemic to "shelve its human rights obligations" and endanger lives.  

 

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