More than 75 migrants stranded at sea were rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) on Tuesday and brought to shore.
The rescue came as an NGO accused Malta's AFM of ignoring a plea for help.
NGO Alarm Phone claimed in a tweet that it had informed the Maltese authorities on Monday night about the boat carrying around 75 migrants, but received no response.
The AFM later confirmed that it had rescued 76 people at sea but did not provide any further details.
++75 people in distress off #Libya++— Alarm Phone (@alarm_phone) October 14, 2019
This afternoon we were called by a group who fled the Tajoura camp where over 50 migrants were killed in July. The people on board say: “there is no water & no food on board, some people are sick & there are big waves.” No rescue is in sight! pic.twitter.com/sjHQtxCung
Within hours of that rescue being confirmed, Italy's coast guard issued a statement saying it had rescued 180 people from a small boat 35 miles off Lampedusa and was bringing them to Malta.
The rescue of the 180 occurred 35 nautical miles south-west of Lampedusa, in Malta's search and rescue zone.
Italy's coast guard said it intervened after Malta had assumed responsibility for coordinating the rescue and asked Italy to send vessels to the site.
"Three boats took on the migrants and are currently on the way to Valletta and are waiting for Maltese authorities to identify a place of safety," the Italian coast guard said.
When contacted, an AFM spokeswoman said she had no information about the Italian rescue.
Alarm Phone accusations
Earlier, Alarm Phone claimed that its pleas to Maltese authorities had been ignored.
“We tried repeatedly to reach the Maltese and Libyan authorities throughout the night without success. We are used to the so-called Libyan coastguard not responding to our calls, but tonight even Maltese authorities were not reachable for more than six hours. MRCCs [Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres] are obliged to be reachable 24/7,” said a spokesperson for the NGO.
Once they did get in touch with the Maltese authorities, they were referred to the Libyan coastguard, she added.
Asked by Times of Malta whether the delay in rescue was linked to a policy change, a spokesperson for the AFM said there had been no such policy change but declined to give any details regarding the rescue.
The spokesperson for Alarm Phone, said 15 women, several of them pregnant, and a baby are among the migrants on the boat which left Libya on October 13.
The Maltese government has spoken of pressure on Malta’s migrant reception facilities.
A draft migration deal which details a system for EU countries to disembark, host and relocate migrants crossing into Europe, was drafted in September.
The draft proposal was drawn up by Malta, Italy, France and Germany and was presented to EU Home Affairs ministers earlier this month.