Private fishing vessel heading for stranded migrants

Concerns raised of second 'pushback by proxy'

Wed, Apr 29th 2020, 10:08 Last updated on 29/4/20

A privately owned fishing boat which controversially returned migrants to Libya earlier this month, is on its way to a migrant dinghy also reportedly drifting in Maltese waters.    

The private fishing vessel known as the Dar al Salam left Grand Harbour on Tuesday night. It also sails under the name Mae Yemenja which is the same boat that returned a group of migrants to Libya earlier this month.  

It is a crime under international law for states to return asylum seekers to a country where they are likely to face persecution.

A government source indicated the boat was on its way to “assist” a group of some 62 migrants stranded in Maltese waters, however Times of Malta is yet to confirm this from other sources.   

The migrants currently stranded in Maltese search and rescue waters have been there since Tuesday night. 

Emergency hotline service Alarm Phone on Wednesday Tweeted about the matter, raising concerns that a "pushback by proxy" to Libya was about to take place.  

Last week Times of Malta reported that the Mae Yemenja, owned by sea captain Carmelo Grech, was sent to give food and supplies to the migrants on the dinghy over Easter weekend.

However, it proceeded to pick them up and disembark them in a country accused of human rights violations and torture. Five people aboard were dead by then, with a further seven missing.

It is unclear whether the ship's owner was paid for this operation. 

Sources said Grech is testifying on Wednesday morning before a magisterial inquiry on the matter.